Food Fraud: Foods That Aren’t What They Appear to Be

You are what you eat, but are you really eating what you think you are? According to a new study by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, maybe not.

It seems reasonable to assume that if you read ingredient labels, you should always know exactly what you’re eating, right? Maybe not: A new report from the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), a nonprofit watchdog group that works to ensure the quality and safety of food and medicine, found an increasing number of fake ingredients cropping up in foods we eat every day, everything from olive oil to milk to coffee. Late last month, the group added 800 new items to its Food Fraud Database and found a 60 percent increase in fake food ingredients since last April.

According to the USP, “food fraud is a collective term that encompasses the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain.”  So basically, a food producer substitutes less expensive ingredients or makes unfounded claims and charges you a higher price.

USP found that the most tampered with foods are olive oil, lemon juice, tea and spices because they’re easy to dilute or enhance with other ingredients, according to ABC News. Also high on the list: milk, honey, coffee, syrup and seafood.

Clouding agents were also found to be a big problem, involving 877 food products from 315 companies. These compounds are commonly used to improve the visual appearence of fruit juices by giving them a “freshed-squeezed” look. These kinds of additives have been linked with health repercussions if consumed over an extended period of time.

USP continues to actively seek out any food fraud offenders to add to its database. You can report ingredients that seem suspicious or search the database here. Read more about the new report here.

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