Is the Food you buy Fake?

In an alarming revelation by a team of public laboratory testers in West Yorkshire, who had tested in excess of one hundred samples of food products taken randomly from supermarket shelves, it was revealed that unwitting consumers are being sold food that is, in many cases, over 30% fake.

Their astonishing findings varied from the under 50% real cheese mozzarella to ham slices that were in fact emulsified meat and poultry, and the deceptive packs of prawns that were in reality half water. It turned out that in excess of 33% of all foods tested were not, in fact, what was claimed on the packs, and were very often completely mislabeled.

Other finds included – shameful, in the wake of the recent horse-meat scandal – mince beef that had been plumped up with pork or poultry, two fruit juices containing additives banned in this country, alongside a so-called herbal slimming tea that contained neither tea nor herbs, but actually only  thirteen times more than prescribed usually of a no-longer allowed obesity drug mixed into glucose powder.

More alarming still was the discovery of  a substance which, in high doses, has been linked to rat behavioural problems, and in fact was first intended to be employed as a flame retardant, namely brominated vegetable oil. This was just one of these truly alarming findings, gleaned 900 sample tests by West Yorkshire councils, 38% of which demonstrating that the buying public were being duped. If this picture is representative of the national outlook, it makes for grim reading indeed.

Concerns were raised that some counterfeit vodkas pose a big threat, simply because, in one extreme case,  the spirit contained not alcohol at all, but in fact the stuff used in antifreeze and as an industrial solvent, namely isopropanol, which is highly dangerous, of course. What the team did was to look at the cheap end of the food market, where corner cutting might be prevalent, and indeed these disturbing findings in a time when austerity measures are causing the cutting of budgets for food standards inspection and analysis generally.

Shadow environment secretary environment secretary rightly remarked that  cheating of customers, and misrepresentation of supposed ingredients on the scale uncovered was a disgrace, and totally unacceptable. Her comments, that indeed the Consumer had a right know exactly what it was that they are buying and eating, and that, furthermore, the authorities needed to address this issue urgently, will have been very welcome to consumer groups.

The prevention of food fraud is something that needs to be given top priority, and the Food Standards Authority must work closely with the food industry to clamp down on deliberate deception. Even though the money for testing has not increased enough, all local authorities need to be doing such tests on a regular basis, before something unspeakable finds a way into our food, something that could happen all too easily, when you consider that some cash-strapped councils have stopped collecting samples altogether.  Without some urgent action, things can only get worse, and who knows what those cheap meals might then consist of? Genuine food for thought, I think.

grain products: bread, rice, cornmeal, and pasta

grain products: bread, rice, cornmeal, and pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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