Saturday, October 11, 2014

Look What They've Done To My Food, Ma!

Food fraud is running rampant! Egads! Food alteration is everywhere! Yikes! 

With the advent of DNA testing, curious investigators discovered that cheap "trash" fish is being passed off as the higher priced, popular varieties. And the fraud is extensive, occurring in lots of countries. So unless you bought the fish whole, you may not be getting what it is labeled. And you'll never know. Someone between the fish man and your kitchen is making a heck of a profit and the consumer is paying for it. 

Same with meats! Yup. European countries exposed a massive meat fraud. Tons and tons of intentionally mislabeled meats. The news media has been reporting this meat switch going on for years in the orient, so now it's been going on in western countries too. Suddenly people noticed. And it the DNA testing that revealed the fraud. 

With food labeling laws in the USA, the public knowingly accepts fakes. Imitation crab. Supposed scallops in those frozen boxes. Read the label and the buyer learns that those scallops are not real even though they are indeed seafood. 

The bottom line is to make a profit. Buy low, sell high, even if it's fraud. Managers of farmers markets are aware of the problem. It's rampant in many popular markets, especially those that require truth in labeling. A New York City market requires all produce to be local. They must maintain their own investigators to check on vendors, often uncovering cases of blatant fraud. At our own local farmers market which doesn't require labeling, I've witnessed vendors misleading buyers by implying that their products are something other than they are. Organic? Often not. Chemical free? Some I know for a fact are not. Locally grown? Not always, to be sure. 

Organic? Trust the label? I wouldn't. I've talked with food distributor employees who have firsthand seen cases of fraud. So not to lose their jobs, they keep their mouth shut. It's happening right here in my island, so I would bet it's happening everywhere. And a bit ago some organic milk produced on the mainland was tested. Tests revealed that the cows were being fed GMO feed, a no-no for organic milk. 

GMO free? I don't believe it 100%. Consumer Report just DNA tested some corn chips listed as GMO free. Turns out that 75% of the corn in them was GMO! So much for truth in labeling. 

So you trust the local farmer? I watch who I trust. Locally not all our farmers follow the rules. My own rule? Get to know my farmer! 

And I'd like to extend that your slaughterhouse? Many people in my area highly question the honesty of remote slaughter facilities. Some do not believe that they are getting back their own meat from their own animals. I believe in home slaughter for the humane aspect, but doing it to avoid fraud is another good reason. Boy, it would be real nice to have a mobile slaughter facility in my area! Extending my thoughts on this....recently the news media announced that our government approved the sending of chicken carcasses oversees (to China to be specific) to be processed, then returned for sale in the US with no labeling indicating that China was involved. The food legally can be listed as an USA product. But would I trust that all the returned chicken meals are really all US chicken meat? Sounds like a great opportunity for fraud and profit to me. 

With food fraud being everywhere, it's another reason for me to try to produce my own foods or to get food from sources I deem reliable. That's the gist for my rant today. I'd rather grow my own that be subjected to the fraud going on in the food industry. 

1 comment:

  1. I earned a ton of money as a kid, spearfishing barracuda, snapper, grouper, da kine, getting top dollar at local restaurants for fish that were still oozing blood - no doubt about species or freshness. I never ate a bite of my catch, though, as it was the same as eating one's profits. Fast-forward a few decades, and I rarely eat any fish, but now that is because of the false labeling scandal. We get our beef, poultry and pork from places like Snake River Farm, where we are confident that the quality is genuine. Yes, it costs more, but we can't trust commercial markets or even the CSA-types, as they have questionable quality (and possibly do take liberty with the label/grade). At least we grow greens and such in our greenhouse now, but winter is coming. The GMO problem is only going to get worse, so pesticide residues will be more frequent. Regulations won't prevent fraud, though. Independent certified testing might be helpful, with free results widely posted.