Is That Chocolate Really Chocolate? And Other Fun Food Frauds

We had the horsemeat scandal in Europe.  Then a fake vodka -- high levels of methanol and bleach -- was produced and sold in England.  Even good chocolate and olive oil are adulterated these days.  Are we really eating what we think we are?

A story in today's New York Times points out that investigators "have uncovered thousands of frauds, raising fresh questions about regulatory oversight as criminals offer bargain-hunting shoppers cheap versions of everyday products, including counterfeit chocolate and adulterated olive oil, Jacob’s Creek wine and even Bollinger Champagne."

“Around the world, food fraud is an epidemic — in every single country where food is produced or grown, food fraud is occurring,” Mitchell Weinberg, president and chief executive of Inscatech, a company that advises on food security, told The New York Times. “Just about every single ingredient that has even a moderate economic value is potentially vulnerable to fraud.”

Even scarier, "many processed products contain ingredients like sugar, vanilla, paprika, honey, olive oil or cocoa products that are tainted," Weinberg was quoted by The Times.

Often, it's the work of international criminals.   And some experts put it down to sparser consumer spending.  Reporters Stephen Castle and Doreen Carvajal say in their story that, because the profit margins for foodstuffs are often within single digits, “if you dilute by 2 percent, that’s a big deal," quoting Shaun Kennedy, associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

His take on the whole food counterfeiting fad?  Ten percent of the food consumers buy in the developed world is adulterated, costing the food industry between $10 to $15 billion a year.  Guess who really pays for it?  You're looking at us.    

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