Food Phonies

Food Phonies

If you are what you eat, you could be having an identity crisis.

If you are what you eat, you could be having an identity crisis. Foods we eat every day are packed with things that aren’t supposed to be there. It’s called food fraud and it’s a growing problem. In Europe, products sold as beef contained 100 percent horse meat.  In Asia, rat meat was being labeled as lamb—and fraud is running rampant in the U.S. seafood industry as well.  In fact, the top five foods are something many of us eat regularly. These faux foods may be putting us all in danger.
Fish, honey, milk, orange juice, and olive oil—what do they all have in common? They top the list when it comes to food fraud!
“It’s a buyer beware,” Dr. Mark Stoeckle, Senior Research Associate in the Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University, told Ivanhoe.
Cheap imitations are filling up grocery store shelves.
“One of the ways that happens is by substituting one ingredient for another,” Dr. Stoeckle said.
Experts say that high cost ingredients are especially susceptible to fraud. Researcher Mark Stoeckle says that more expensive products are being replaced with cheaper imposter ingredients.
“It’s hard for consumers,” Dr. Stoeckle said.
What are the top fraudster foods? Olive oil, even the extra-virgin kind is the most adulterated food, usually cut by hazelnut oil, which could pose a dangerous threat to unsuspecting nut-allergy sufferers.
Milk may not do the body good. Studies even found detergent, sugar, salt, and skim milk powder in it, none of it listed on the label. 
Tea bags are sometimes being filled with lawn grass. More expensive white tuna is switched for cheaper escolar, which can cause food poisoning. 

Your favorite juice is mostly apple, even if it’s labeled blueberry or cranberry.   Honey is also one of the most common faux foods. Some diluted with sugar syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and according to Food Safety News, some honey being shipped from china is laced with antibiotics and heavy metals.

Marianne Petrino doesn’t take any chances. She sells her own honey at the farmers market.
“It is the honey I eat, so it’s all I’m used to,” Marianne Petrino, employee at Orchards of Concklin, told Ivanhoe.
But if you can’t make your own, how do you protect yourself and your family? 
First, buy a whole lemon instead of lemon juice.  Buy loose leaf tea instead of tea bags, purchase whole spices, don’t buy the newest food trend. Most importantly, buy from reputable sources you can trust.   
Marianne says it’s not surprising that more people are choosing to buy locally grown foods from people they know.
“It’s exciting.  People are very concerned about what they’re eating and what they’re feeding their kids,” Marianne said.
The United States grocery manufacturers association says counterfeit foods cost the industry 15 billion dollars a year.  Dr. Stoeckle says there needs to be push for more testing and regulation on foods coming from overseas.
To track the latest on food fraud cases and learn more about other foods that are a common target, check out the food fraud data base at

FOOD FRAUD: Most people strive to achieve a healthy lifestyle of exercising and eating healthy, but you may not be eating as healthy as you think. Food labels at grocery stores label their food as “all natural” or “fat-free”, but this does not always mean that they are considered healthier than other foods. Food fraud is defined as a food that is composed of ingredients that are not supposed to be there and are unlabeled. The worst part about it is that consumers do not realize the change of ingredients. One of the simplest foods that is sold in grocery stores and frequently purchased is honey. Recently, Groeb Farms, one of the nation’s largest honey suppliers was caught importing cheap and adulterated honey from China. This makes us question, what are the right groceries to buy while shopping and how do we know that we are getting what we pay for? Some nutritionists will recommend that buying organic foods are the safest bet; but not all “natural” foods are phonies, and making simple changes while at the grocery store may save you from falling for phony foods. (Source:

PHONY FOODS: Some of the foods that we typically buy are the foods that contain hidden ingredients or are flat out imposters. One way to stay away from food fraud is to find a supplier that you can trust. Be on the lookout for food fraud in these so-called “healthy” foods:
• Olive oil
• Milk
• Fish
• Yogurt
• Orange juice
• Apple juice
• Coffee
• Tea
• Black pepper
• Saffron  (Source:

HOW TO TRACK FOOD FRAUD:  The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention has created a database for reports of food fraud. This database is useful to those who are concerned about the food they buy and it will provide them with reports of recent food frauds. Within the database is a Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) that covers all of the ingredients of the food reported. The FCC is also beneficial to manufacturers to help them distinguish genuine products. In return, this will make food suppliers carry safer foods, which will give customers a piece of mind about the food they are consuming. (Source:

 For More Information, Contact:

Zach Veilleux
Executive Editor
Communications and Public Affairs
The Rockefeller University

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