As if fish identity swapping wasn’t concerning enough, new research published in the Journal of Food Science has identified the top seven foods with commonly altered ingredients as olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee, and apple juice, proving food fraud is alive and well; and unfortunately, flourishing.
In light of growing concerns regarding food safety, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) has compiled a public database with reports on food fraud and economically-motivated adulteration of food, which is the first of its kind. Researchers behind the database say getting this information published was key in giving the study credibility so that food fraud can become a more important and valid public concern.
The database provides information necessary to properly assess the risks of certain products, with a list of 1,305 records of food fraud instances from 66 scholarly, media and other public reports. The database also includes potential adulterants – or substances that corrupt, debase, or make impure by the addition of a foreign substance - that could reappear in the supply chain for particular ingredients, as well as analytical testing strategies to detect food fraud.
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If there was a machine that could detect whether your hamburger was really grass-fed like the label says it is, would you use it? Picarro - the company behind a piece of technology that’s capable of doing so – hopes you’d say yes. Because they think you’d be surprised to find out what’s really in your food.
Based in Silicon Valley, Picarro is a highly reputable company that specializes in carbon and water cycle measurements. They’ve developed an instrument that’s capable of detecting isotopes in food called an ‘optical stable isotope analyzer.’ And although it sounds complicated, the way it works is actually quite simple.
According to Picarro Business Director Iain Green – whom we contacted via email – carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) are the same molecules that plants photosynthesize to create the sugars, oils and other organic material. And since isotopic signatures vary around the world, so do crops. And depending on the plate type and region it’s grown, crops absorb different ratios of these molecules and therefore have unique isotopic signatures.
An example of this? Sugar cane grown in Hawaii has a different ‘signature’ than sugar grown from corn in the Midwest. And cocoa grown on the Ivory Coast has a different ‘signature’ than cocoa grown in Ghana. And Picarro can tell the difference after one little test.
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Ractopamine, ever heard of it? Probably not. However, this feed additive is rather controversial and is causing international waves.
Ractopamine is fed to American livestock in order to promote lean meat. Currently, it is fed to about 60 to 80 percent of the pigs in America and as a result, there have been numerous reports of dead and sickened pigs. No other livestock drug has caused such high numbers of death and illness according to an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Since the drug was introduced, over 218,000 pigs on ractopamine have been reported to show very adverse effects. Since March 2011, the drug has caused the majority of problems in pigs even though other livestock animals are on the drug. Pigs are suffering from hyperactivity, trembling, broken limbs, the inability to walk, and death. These results were gathered from a FDA report that was released under a Freedom of Information Act request. Even though these disturbing things are happening to the livestock, the FDA says the data can’t determine that the drug caused these effects.
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By Lauren O’Connor, MS, RD for Nutri-Savvy.
You may tread on it, wear it, and yes, even ingest it! The same chemical used in making tires and the make-up you wear may be found in a wide variety of common, everyday food products.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a synthetic chemical found in petroleum, rubber, cosmetics, animal feed, and food packaging. Because it prevents oxidation, it is also used to “preserve freshness” in food products. It works by retarding rancidity and eliminating odors in fat and oil-containing foods. Though an “antioxidant,” this widely-used substance may be cause for concern.
The exposure to BHA in foods increased nearly two-fold from the 1970s to the early eighties, with US annual usage rising from 170,000 kg to 300,000 kg. The additive may be found in butter, meats, cereals, chewing gum, baked goods, snacks, nut products, dry beverage mixes, active dry yeast, dehydrated potatoes and beer! And let’s not forget the environment: If you work around livestock or in the cosmetics, rubber or petroleum industries, you have increased exposure. Fast-food employees who cook and serve fried, oily foods are also more exposed.
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Did you know our government says companies can sell us food with an average of 225 insect fragments? Or that 4.5 rodent hairs per 8 ounces of noodle products is acceptable? Swallow this: the FDA also says that an average of 20 or more maggots is permitted per 3.5 ounces of drained canned mushrooms, or that an average of 15 percent is OK for the mold content in canned cranberry sauce. Our government has a lot of rules about “bad” or “tainted” food that I was pretty shocked to learn about, one of which is reconditioning.
Recently a school lunch supplier, SnoKist Growers, repackaged moldy applesauce into fruit cups and canned goods. Even though the public outcry has caused the FDA to re-inspect, this is not an illegal practice. The company, per FDA standards, is allowed to run the food through a heat process to kill the contaminant. This process then renders the food safe and shelf ready. This same process was used in 2010 when over 177 products were recalled from Basic Food Flavors, Inc., a hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, producer. Salmonella was found in their HVP, a very popular flavor enhancer, and thus the company heat-treated the HVP and it was reconditioned, distributed, and sold.
FDA officials say they expect some contaminants to in products, simply because a zero-tolerance threshold would be impossible to for manufacturers to meet. As the consumer, I’d like to know if my rice was re-sifted because a month ago to remove bug parts. I really want to know if the applesauce I buy for my son was full of mold weeks prior. However, the FDA does not require a label or notification or even a price reduction to shoppers, nor is it going to any time soon. I doubt anyone would buy rice with a label stating, “Contained bugs last month.”
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