Everydayhealth.com reports the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention has added 800 cases of ‘food fraud’ to its database of foods that are mislabeled or contain fake -- and sometimes dangerous -- fillers and other ingredients.
Packaged food products aren’t always what they appear to be — in fact, some foods might be mislabeled or diluted or filled with cheap additives used by manufacturers to cut costs the nonprofit scientific organization said. USP, which keeps a free public database of food-ingredient fraud, is warning consumers that the level of so-called food fraud is up by 60 percent this year.
Here are some of the top foods on the USP’s fraud list from around the world:
1. Olive Oil— the USP found that in many cases, olive oil has been replaced with other, less-expensive vegetable oils like walnut oil, sunflower oil, or corn oil. In China, they found olive oil diluted with “gutter oil” — waste oil repurposed as cooking oil. In some cases, olive oil was even tainted with lard, which was used as a filler.
2. Spices — like saffron, turmeric, and chili powder were found to be diluted with or replaced by less-expensive spices or fillers. Some types of chili powder were filled with dehydrated red beets or color additives to give them brighter red color without having to add more actual chili powder.
3. Seafood — a significant money maker in the United States, where fish are often mislabeled to avoid food safety controls and seafood fraud is a big problem.
One example of seafood fraud is the sale of escolar, a tropical fish that is often mislabeled as white tuna or butter fish. Escolar can cause kerorrhea — a gastrointestinal condition marked by diarrhea and other digestive issues — and is banned in Italy and Japan. Other countries have issued advisories on the trade and consumption of this fish, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew a recommendation in the 1990s not to import the fish. Another example is puffer fish, which can cause etrodotoxin poisoning that can lead to paralysis and even death — is sometimes mislabeled as monkfish to evade import restrictions.