“Food fraud” may sound funny, but we’re not talking about the Hamburglar here.

The term refers to situations when food sellers purposely add to, mess around with, or misrepresent food, or when they mislead customers about what’s inside a given container in order to make more money.

 

The new records show that the most commonly fraudulent products are olive oil, milk, saffron, honey and coffee.

Tea, fish, clouding agents (used in fruit juices, like lemon, to make products look freshly squeezed), maple syrup and spices (turmeric, black pepper and chili pepper) were also top imposters.

Most of the reported food fraud was committed by producers adding fillers (i.e. other plant leaves to tea leaves), mixing in less expensive spices with high value spices or watering down liquids. Olive oils were often replaced and/or diluted with cheaper vegetable oils.

Tips to combat food fraud

  • If there’s a “whole” alternative, use it. Buy lemons instead of lemon juice; pomegranates instead of pomegranate juice; loose leaf tea; saffron threads; etc. Also, purchase the whole spice (peppercorns, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks) and grind/grate it yourself.
  • Buy from reputable sources and brands you trust, including your local farmers market, co-op and natural food store. Know the who, when and where of the product.
  • Don’t buy into the newest health trend. Food fraud appears more commonly in high-value ingredients that are linked to health benefits and consumers pay a premium for.
  • Educate yourself and train your palate. Does it taste, smell and look right? If you’re wary, search online to see if that particular brand has been reported as fraudulent before.
  • Petition the FZANZ to set standards for the most commonly fraudulent products, like honey and olive oil.
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