December 5, 2016

398 Food Fraud [5 Dec 2016]

I am reading a book called “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple (April 2016). The problem of food fraud is much larger than I imagined, costing the food industry world-wide billions of dollars each year and sometimes having serious health, social and environmental effects. The sad truth is we don’t always know what we’re eating, and Canada and the natural health industry are not immune to fraud.

The book discusses various types of food fraud that have been documented, often well organized and on a large scale, and the efforts of scientists to uncover them. Here are some examples:
• Olive oil adulterated with commercial canola oil is blamed for 25,000 serious injuries and over 1,000 deaths in Spain (1981)
• Substitution of cheaper species of fish and shellfish
• Honey diluted with high fructose corn syrup or other cheaper sugars
• Manuka honey which sells at a high premium is often counterfeit
• Melamine added to infant formula in China (2008) resulted in 52,000 hospitalizations and 6 infant deaths (two of the men responsible were executed)
• Sick Irish horses slaughtered and mixed with ground beef in the UK (2013)
• Ground nuts added to spices in North America and Europe (2013)
Mucci Farms of Ontario from 2011-2013 relabelled Mexican bell peppers as “Product of Canada”

To combat this problem, government agencies test foods using sophisticated chemical analyses. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U. of Guelph pioneered the use of DNA analysis to identify species. (Deep budget cuts to CFIA in recent years are undermining this process.)

To be fair, the retailers and even the distributors are often unaware of the adulterations. Processed foods contain dozens of ingredients from many countries and it would be impossible to have them all tested.

One way to reduce the risk of food fraud is to buy local unprocessed foods. Unfortunately “real foods” tend to be more expensive and require more work to prepare at home. But even if the ingredients on processed food labels are accurate, it is still best to avoid them!

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

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