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July 26, 2012 / Alison Wilson

Is Your Food a Fraud?

Some of the foods Americans consume everyday may not contain the ingredients they think are included, according to a new Journal of Food Sciencereport.   New research that appears in the journal’s April issue analyzes foods that are most likely to contain adulterated ingredients using the first known public databasecreated by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.

Food fraud happens when an ingredient is replaced without the knowledge of the purchaser.  The Institute of Food Technologists defines food fraudas “a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”

The foods that have been identified as the most prone to food fraud are olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee, and apple juice.  For example, a search for olive oil on the Food Fraud Database reveals that hazelnut, corn, and even peanut oil has been found in what is labeled only as “olive oil” or “extra virgin olive oil.”  This is particularly concerning for those who suffer from food allergies.

According to the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, some food substitutes are toxic.  It was discovered that a common spice, Chinese star anise, was being replaced with the toxic Japanese star anise.  Not only do some of the hidden ingredients contain toxic substances, but they are often specifically designed to avoid detection.  For example, prior to the discovery of infant formula containing melamine in 2008, testing for melamine was not conducted as part of routine quality control.  Records that are now publicly accessible on the database reveal that the use of melamine dates back to 1979.  The use and development of this database will lead to increased consumer protection and awareness.

If you have been the victim of food fraud or have been misled as a consumer, contact Khorrami, LLP for more information.

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