As it’s one of the largest industries in the world, it’s hardly surprising that foodie fraud is a big deal. In a bid to get a bit more bang for their buck, naughty wholesalers have been conning shoppers for decades with the promise of high quality, top of the range produce. More often than you might think, these replacements are a pale imitation of the real thing. To help you protect yourself from wanton food mischief, here is our list of the most commonly copied and faked foodstuffs.
1. Olive Oil
Proper olive oil is both extremely tasty and expensive, so it’s a prime candidate for a con artist. Products that claim to come from Italy may only have passed through one of the ports and are often diluted with cheaper alternatives such as soybean and rapeseed. Try to look for bottles that can designate a specific point of origin and have the extra virgin seal of approval.
2. Parma Ham
As the name implies, there’s only one place that can claim to produce proper Parma ham. The city of Parma has a proud meat making history that has made it highly susceptible to skullduggery. In America and Canada in particular, the real product has had a tough time - forced to go under the name “Original Ham” until 2013 thanks to complex trademarking agreements. Though this situation has been resolved, fakes still abound.
There may be nothing sweeter than the thought of busy bees buzzing away to make spoonfuls of gooey honey, but there is a dark secret at the heart of the industry. Numerous cases across the world have found that many companies have been fraudulently advertising sucrose, beet sugar and dyed corn syrup as the real deal. With so many suspect jars in stores, the best way to be 100% sure of your honey is to buy from small-batch suppliers.
You might think it’s relatively tricky to claim a shark as a scallop, but in truth seafood fraud is one of the most widespread global food crimes. Everything from mislabelling random fish as a premium product to using a cookie cutter to turn skate into shellfish is rampant and it can be very difficult to tell exactly what you’re getting. Try to buy as fresh as possible and keep an eye out for organisations such as Seafood Watch and Trace and Trust.
In 2008, parents everywhere were horrified to discover that a batch of exported formula milk had been inadvertently tainted with melamine and poisoned nearly 55,000 infants across the US. Since then, fake formula has been uncovered containing detergent and even hydrogen peroxide. The best way to avoid a bad batch is to leave any imported milk powder well alone.
Aside from rolling a hefty wheel of well-aged parmesan home from the shop, you’re putting a lot of faith in the honesty of your suppliers whenever you buy cheese. Unsurprising, unscrupulous businesses have been quick to take advantage. Proper parmigiano reggiano is particularly susceptible. In order to guarantee a genuine product, shoppers should look for proof of country of origin for any cheese not naturally found where you happen to be buying it.
By and large, most foodie fakes are little more than minor annoyances. Nonetheless, it’s important to keep an eye open for any potential tricks. If you want to eat the best, you need to know what to look for.