One of the privileges of living in the 21st century is the ability to find quality food items and even import foreign food that would otherwise be inaccessible. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay with this system as many take advantage of the customers’ growing demands.
Food fraud is a $50 billion annual industry, which continues to grow each year and affects many consumers. Whether you are a health enthusiast that is being tricked into buying fake honey or olive oil, or a foodie paying top dollar for imitation lobster or truffle oil, food fraud affects most of us at some point.
To navigate through the food system and avoid getting fooled, award-winning writer Larry Olmsted carried out his own investigation to find out exactly what are we eating in Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It.
From grocery stores and market to restaurant and coffee shops, here is the list of top twelve foods that are most commonly found to be fake.
Olive oil has many health benefits; it is anti-inflammatory, and helps prevents strokes and heart disease. It is wonderful oil to use…if you find a real one. As Olmsted found out, olive oil is one of the most common fake foods in the U.S – 80-85% of it is fake.
“This is one of the most pervasive Fake Foods in America, reaching deep into home kitchens, restaurants, and supermarkets, and not unfamiliar to the government agencies supposedly watching over our food supply,” Olmsted writes.
Instead of pure olive oil, what you are commonly buying is peanut oil and even soybean oil – a likely GMO food.
To find real olive oil, look for seals from quality assurance organizations, or better yet “know your farmer.”
The Extra Virgin Alliance, UNAPROL (an Italian olive grower’s association), and the North American Olive Oil Association which tests member samples and uses a red circular logo with a green olive branch, are useful seals of quality to look for on your product. The California Olive Oil Council and the International Olive Council also certify their products according as noted in this article.
What many people do not realize is that there no real standards to what can be called “honey” when sold in little glass jars. As a result, many places sell honey diluted with sugar, sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, or even illegal antibiotics.
Thankfully most farmer’s markets include products from local beekeepers that are generally authentic. Do your best to know your source before buying, and ask plenty of questions if you’re skeptical.
There are many fish species in the world. And those who love fish know that many taste very different from one another. In restaurants however, you never know if you are going to get what you ordered. Fish served there and fish sold in stores is often mislabeled
Red snapper, for example, is fake 94% of the time, as a DNA testing study showed. Sold as a red snapper is a much cheaper fish filet made of various other species. The same is true for many other types of fish. Tuna is also fake an estimated 94% of the time, especially when it is served at sushi restaurants. Instead of tuna, sushi bars often use escolar, a type of fish that often is responsible for giving people diarrhea.
Experts say that if you are buying or ordering an expensive fish, and it is never shown to you whole, you are very likely to be scammed.
When buying fruit juice – no matter what kind – you might end up drinking a lot of apple juice. Many companies add apple juice to cut any other fruit juices, because apples are cheaper.
But this scam does not stop there. Even though apples are inexpensive, Chinese-made apple concentrate is even cheaper, and that is what you are likely to be drinking.
Check your ingredients lists and buy from trusted companies, or make your own to avoid these scams.
As common as coffee is, it is also often cut with cheaper materials in order for the seller to make more money on it. The hidden ingredients in it can be: twigs, corn, barley, and parchment. It gets worse when it comes to instant coffee. It can be mixed with chicory, cereals, caramel, parchment, start, malt, and figs, according to Olmsted.
If you want a guarantee that your coffee is 100% pure, it is best to get the beans and grind it yourself.
Who does not like a cup of fresh brewed tea? Unfortunately, to keep teas smelling fresh longer, instead of disclosing its natural shelf life, some companies are adding sawdust to make teas last longer.
Buy from trustworthy organic and local producers to minimize this risk whenever possible.
Real parmesan cheese is often named the King of Cheeses for its taste. But here in the U.S., you are likely to get stuck with many of its fake doubles. According to a 2016 FDA study, almost 100% of this cheese in the U.S. is mixed with cheaper cheese or even wood pulp to lower the costs.
If you want to find a real one, be sure to look for the rare “Made in Italy” stamp on it.
Japan’s Kobe Beef
Kobe beef is one of the most treasured meats in the meat industry. It has originated in Japan and receives an A5 grade for its taste, but now can be also raised in Australia or Japan. This meat is extremely expensive as it requires many steps to achieve its texture. The cows raised for Kobe beef are treated close to royalty…up until they are slaughtered. They are given beer. They receive daily massages. And they are even played classical music.
If raised correctly Kobe beef is sold for $150 per pound and higher. Unfortunately, many places want to charge the same price without doing any work. As a result, Business Insider found that only eight restaurants in the U.S. sell authentic Kobe beef. All others are likely to be scamming their customers.
If you like to cook, you might have noticed that some cheap spices bought at supermarkets have no real smell or taste. Often, they smell like dried up weeds from outside. That is because they are often mixed with random ingredients. Turmeric is often mixed with corn; nutmeg – with pepper, and oregano with weeds.
Truffle oil is one of the recent food crazes, with restaurants serving French fries drizzled with “truffle oil,” and cafes are selling “truffle oil” popcorn. Sadly, none of the truffle oil dishes contain much if any truffle content. Truffles – real truffles – are extremely rare and expensive (real truffle oil can go for $90 per ounce).
What you buy as truffle oil is often a synthetic chemical combination that attempts replicates the taste. As Olmsted told USA Today:
“Most people have no idea what real truffles taste like — certainly not like plastic or gasoline.”
The most common ingredients used to make it are 2,4-dithiapentane mixed with olive oil, as well as bismethyl(dithio)methane (also known as 2,4-dithiapentane). This concoction makes the oil cheap but lacking any medicinal properties that real truffles have (truffles are great for heart health, circulation, blood sugar levels, and the immune system). Instead, fake truffle oil may have negative effect on health: 2,4-dithiapentane in high quantities carries risks for the central nervous system. While the fake truffle oil in question uses it in lower quantities, it is likely not worth the risk, and definitely not worth the high price it is being sold for.
Lobster is expensive, which is why that Lobster dinner special from your favorite restaurant could well be a mixture of shrimp and crab. While there is nothing wrong with either, you are better off buying them cheaper than the fake lobster unless you can be confident in the source of your meal.
Real champagne comes from the Champagne region of France, and there is a misconception that it is illegal to call any other sparkling drink champagne. That is false. At least half “champagne” bottles on the market are from California and other places. While there are not health risks, you are likely to be spending way more money than this fake beverage is worth.
Olmsted’s book Real Food/Fake Food also explores the lies the food industry tells the consumers when it claims that the food is locally source or “farm to table,” or that they have sustainable or humane practices.
If you’re buying any of these 12 foods make sure you thoroughly examine, question and educate yourself on the source before spending extra money.
Also, it is pretty much always a good idea to buy organic and from independent, local producers and farmers whenever possible to minimize food fraud and make sure you’re not the latest victim of one of these scams. It won’t guarantee 100% immunity, but it’s a great place to start (to say the very least).
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Imagine a rotting corpse draped over your body from head to toe...
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Is Bread Really the Staff of Life… or the Stuff of Disease?
For most us, there are few foods more comforting than bread.
Fluffy biscuits, crusty baguettes, flaky croissants… even a simple slice of toast topped with melted butter can taste like heaven.
And that smell… few scents are quite as pleasant as fresh bread baking in the oven.
But there is a lot of confusion as to where bread fits into a healthy diet.
The Bible practically commands followers to eat it: “Give us this day our daily bread…” The government put it at the base of the food pyramid. And for centuries, it has been called “the staff of life.”
Of course, there are some who disagree…
Well-known cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, calls wheat “the perfect chronic poison.”
And for a poison, we sure eat lots of it…
The average American consumes 55 pounds of wheat flour every year, making refined flour the #1 source of calories in the American Diet – a situation that nutrition expert Chris Kresser describes as, “a public health catastrophe.”
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- Is it the perfect poison… or an essential daily food?
- Is “gluten-free” bread better for you than regular bread?
- And can you still eat bread… while maintaining a lean body and optimal health?
The answers to these questions may surprise you!
Be sure to read #5 – the biggest surprise of all!
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You probably know most of us eat too much processed food. What you may not know is that it’s full of toxic chemicals and substandard, dirt-cheap ingredients designed to make you eat more…and force you to gain weight.
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“That stuff is just a lot of calories your body can’t use,” Liz told me, “Some are poison. And all these foods are stripped of the anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories that help your body detox. The result? Your body expends huge amounts of calories to eliminate some toxins—the rest, it stores in your fat to protect you. This is why most people are hungry all the time. They’re not getting energy they need.”
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Sponsored Health Resources
In the years that I've been working on this website project I've come across some amazing resources by some very special people. I'd like to share them with you here.
NOTE: I update these links often so please check back to see what's new!
1) Everyone knows green smoothies are healthy right? Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
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4) I thought it was virtually impossible for a website to be able to tell me anything even a little bit insightful after only submitting my name and date of birth... I was wrong!
5) Turmeric is amazing. The problem is - It's hard to absorb!
6) Wonder why your stomach still sticks out even though you're hammering the core exercises every day? It's a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles.
7) Even if you're the most active of athletes, you may still suffer from tight hip flexors due to the amount of time you spend each day planted to a chair.
Enjoy! Let me know how these work out for you. And if you run across anything I've missed please let me know.