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How One Restaurant Critic Took On the Food Fables We've All Been Fed

April 15, 2016

Laura Reiley's first investigation was a small one. But it proved to be a nibble into something much bigger, a story the Tampa Bay Times' food critic took on this week.  Four years ago, over dinner at Tampa's famous Bern's Steak House, Reiley listened as the waiter expounded on specials that came from the restaurant's eight-acre organic farm. She thought to herself: These things don't grow in Florida this time of year. 

The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle On Your Penne Could Be Wood

February 16, 2016

Some brands promising 100 percent purity contained no Parmesan at all.  The cheese police are on the case.Acting on a tip, agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paid a surprise visit to a cheese factory in rural Pennsylvania on a cold November day in 2012.  They found what they were looking for: evidence that Castle Cheese Inc. was doctoring its 100 percent real parmesan with cut-rate substitutes and such fillers as wood pulp and distributing it to some of the country’s biggest grocery chains.

AGROMAFIA - CBS 60 Minutes Report

January 3, 2016

In Italy, Bill Whitaker finds out that the long arms of the Mafia extend to agricultural products, especially olive oil, on which the mob makes huge profits by exporting imitations.  When it comes to knock-offs of Italian classics -- you probably think of fake Guccis or Pradas -- not food.But last month, police in Italy nabbed 7,000 tons of phony olive oil. Much of it was bound for American stores. The oil was from North Africa, deodorized with chemicals and rebranded as more expensive Italian extra virgin. The scam was cooked-up by organized crime.

Consumers Have a Right to Sue Over Fake Organic Food, Cali Court Rules

December 3, 2015

The California Supreme Court has paved the way for consumers to sue over foods falsely labeled "organic." The Thursday decision reverses a lower court ruling that only state and federal prosecutors could challenge organic food labeling. The case comes from a lawsuit filed by California resident Michele Quesada, who alleged that Herb Thyme Farms' "organic" herbs actually contained a mix of organic and non-organic plants. The company countered that it had been granted permission by Department of Agriculture authorities to use the organic label. 

Fake Fish Fracas Hits Belgium

November 3, 2015

Diners in restaurants in the Belgian capital may be in for a surprise after a report found 30% of fish is being substituted with cheaper alternatives.


The study, by Oceana environmental group, says more than a third of fish is being mislabelled in and around Brussels' European Union institutions.


In EU canteens, where many European officials eat, 38% of fish is wrongly labelled.


Oceana's executive director, Lasse Gustavsson, called it "total chaos".


"The EU needs to clean up its fishy business, take responsibility and urgently improve traceability and labelling of seafood," he said.


The investigation inspected DNA from over 280 samples in 150 restaurants in Brussels' tourist and EU areas. Overall, 31.8% of fish was mislabelled.

You won't believe what some Iranians have found in their bottled water

October 30, 2015

The latest in a string of questionable food quality calls by the government is bringing to light issues such as the mass supply of unsanitary food products, the violations of consumer rights and the lack of substantive legal recourse to deal with them.

Study finds very high level of salmon fraud in restaurants

October 28, 2015

As winter approaches, take a second look at that wild salmon entree you paid a premium for in a restaurant. It's likely mislabeled.


Oceana, an advocacy organization that's previously found fraud in retail marketing of other fish, shrimp and crab cakes, released findings Wednesday that diners were misled in restaurants when ordering salmon 67% of the time. The most common mislabeling was labeling farmed salmon as pricier, more sustainable wild salmon.


Oceana also tested salmon in grocery stores, finding it was dramatically less likely to be mislabeled — about 20% — and that large grocery stores were significantly more reliable with salmon sourcing than small markets.

Still, of the 82 salmon samples taken during the 2013-2014 winter in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Virginia, 43% were mislabeled.

Clear Lab Launches Clear Food To Bring the Power of Genomic Sequencing to Food Consumers

October 22, 2015

Clear Food (TM), the consumer initiative of the new food analytics company, Clear Labs (TM), launched today to bring greater trust to the food industry. Clear Food’s monthly food reports will help consumers identify the most reliable, high-quality foods based on in-depth molecular analysis. The company's objective rating system, the Clear Score (TM) gives consumers the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. The reports, published at, will be available to the public at no cost.

NC Seafood Firm Sentenced for Mislabeling Imported Shrimp as "Fresh Caught"

August 21, 2015

Alphin Brothers Inc., a Dunn, North Carolina-based seafood processor and wholesale distributor, was recently sentenced in federal court for falsely labeling imported shrimp as wild-caught, according to the U.S. Justice Department.  Alphin Brothers Inc., pleaded guilty to one felony count of making or submitting false records in violation of the Lacey Act in a plea agreement Feb. 10, 2015.  Court documents state that a company employee, who purchased and sold shrimp on the company’s behalf, directed Alphin Brothers employees and employees of another seafood processing facility to falsely label approximately 25,000 pounds of farm-raised imported shrimp as wild-caught product of the United States. The falsely labeled shrimp was later sold by Alphin Brothers in interstate commerce to customers in Louisiana.

Food Fraud Tests Reveal 25% of Dried Oregano is Adulterated

July 23, 2015

Oregano is the latest ingredient to be in the spotlight over food fraud, with food safety expert Professor Chris Elliott raising concerns over the authenticity of dried herbs and spices on sale in UK retailers.

Cancer-Causing Dye Sparks Palm Oil Recall

April 22, 2015

The presence of a cancer-causing dye, Sudan IV, in palm oil products sold at a London cash and carry has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to issue a recall notice.

Media Coverage Could Increase Food Fraud Cases

February 23, 2015

There is a growing number of food fraudsters infiltrating the UK supply chain, and experts within the food industry think increased media coverage might be to blame.  With the Food Crime Unit recently put into action with the growing threat of Food Fraud in the UK, discussions in the media could be counterproductive and actively encouraging criminals to target the food industry.


"Cancer Eye Beef" is Thankfully No Longer On The Menu

February 18, 2015

Government agencies aren't usually quick to disclose internal failings, but they're all to often quick to toot their own horns when it comes to their successes.  On Friday, USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fond did just that when she revealed the findings of a series of investigations the agency conducted last year.  Testifying in front of the house, Fong detailed a series of cases in which the USDA swept in to head off crime, prevent wasteful spending, and shut down food fraud.

2,500 Tons of the Food We Eat is Fake

February 17, 2015

Fake alcohol was the biggest offender.  Do you really know what's in your cheese?  New evidence may cast some doubt on the purity of your favorite foods.  Interpol announced that it seized thousands of tonnes of fake food in a joint operation with Europol over the past two months -- seemingly benign mainstays like mozzerella, eggs, bottled mineral water, strawberries, cooking oil, and dried fruit - in 47 countries.

Antifreeze Brand Name Vodka Fakers Raided

February 17, 2015

International food and drink fraud investigators have warned that lives are at risk after thousands of tonnes of fake and substandard products were seized around the world.  

Paprika Dishes Under Investigation As Nuts For Spices Scandal Grows

February 16, 2015

An investigation into the potentially deadly substituion of nuts for cumin has been widened after experts discovered some paprika dishes may also be tainted with almond or peanut. 

Unlabelled Nuts in Food Prompts FSA Investigation

February 14, 2015

Almonds were found in fajita kits from Morrisons, and Aldi, and in Bart's ground cumin.  All three items have been recalled. The FSA initiated a sample testing program, testing for almond and peanut protein, after certain products containing ground cumin tested positive for undeclared peanut protein in the US and Canada.  


DNA Testing Exposes Fish Fraud, But Use On Herbal Supplements Raises Questions, Criticism

February 8, 2015

DNA barcoding has exposed some infamous cases of food fraud, like cheap catfish sold as pricey grouper and expensive sheep's milk cheese that is actually made from cow's milk. But can it tell if a food touted as an energy booster contains ginseng or just a mix of rice powder and pine?

Surprise! Here's What's In Your Supplements. Hint: Its Not What's On the Label

February 3, 2015

You'd think that a St. John's Wort supplement would contain some St. John's Wort.  Or that your morning ginseng would be primarily from ginseng.  But for Target, GNC, Walgreen's and Walmart stores in New York state this is not always the case.   

Former Royal Navy Chef Jailed Over 'Fake' Sea Bass Scam

January 30, 2015

A former Royal Navy Chef has been jailed after conning frozen food giant Iceland into selling the wrong kind of fish to customers.  A judge branded the 1.1 Million Pound fraud a "scandal" and said public confidence at the time of heightened concern about the origin and identification of food was "seriously undermined".

Food Safety MEPs Call For Country of Origin Labelling Meat in Processed Foods

January 21, 2015

Meat used in an ingredient in processed foods, such a lasagne, should be labelled by country of origin as is already the case with bovine fresh meat, said Environment, Public Health and Food Safety MEPs on Wednesday.  They call on the European Commission to come up with legislative proposals in order to rebuild consumer confidence in the wake of the horsemeat scandal and other food fraud cases.


UK Food and Drink Companies Lose 11 Billion Pounds to Fraud

November 25, 2015

Fraud is costing UK food and drink companies more than 11.2 Billion Pounds per year, and resulting in a "fraud tax" on groceries.  The research found that fraud in the sector was leading customers to pay a five pence "fraud tax" on every pound spent on groceries, and that tackling fraud in the industry could boost profitability by 4.48 Billion Pounds or 34%.


Tasty or addictive? Chinese restaurant serves noodles laced with opium poppy

September 24, 2014

The noodles were not just tasty. They were addictive.  A Chinese noodle vendor in northern Shaanxi province has been detained for 10 days after admitting he added powdered poppy plant — from which opium is made --- to his dishes to keep customers coming back, Chinese media has reported. The owner said that he bought 4 catty (2kg) of the substance for 600 yuan ($98) in August. He said he added it to his food to make it taste better and to improve his business, the Huashangbao paper reported.

The opium-laced noodles came to light after police stopped a vehicle driven by a 26-year-old man and tested him for drugs not long after he had consumed a bowl of the noodles.

Italian Police Foil Counterfeit Tuscan Red Wine Scam in Biggest Food Fraud

September 11, 2014

Producers of Tuscany's Brunello di Montalcino have been toasting their good fortune after Italian police foiled a plot to flood the market with nearly half a million counterfeit bottles of the prized red wine.  A wine expert, who had obtained fake Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino labels and falsified certification in the region's wine database, was selling lower-quality local wine as bulk supplies of the coveted red to unwitting local producers, police officers in Siena said.  "It's the biggest fraud ever carried out in the agricultural and food sector," the force's chief, Luca Albertario, added. Had the scam succeeded, it would have resulted in fake Brunello di Montalcino wines "ending up on the tables of half the restaurants in the world", he added. The 160,000 litres of falsified wine would have sold for up to €5m (£4m).

UK Must Fight Food Crime, Says Final Elliott Report

September 4, 2014

Food crime is happening in the UK and the government needs to start tackling it as a matter of priority by setting up a dedicated food crime unit.  That is the key message from Prof. Chris Elliott's much delayed final report into food authenticity, which was published today (4 September) having originally been scheduled for the spring.  Because of the delays surrounding the publication of the report - which was commissioned by government in the wake of the horse meat scandal last year - there had been concern Elliott may have been put under pressure to water down his recommendations from those set out in his interim report which was published in December.

Momentum Builds to Keep Fraudulent Foods Off of Store Shelves

August 25, 2014

Faced with mounting scandals, food industry looks for ways to prevent the next one from happening. The alarm bells have been sounding for a long time, but only in the past few years have consumers, regulators, and companies started to wrestle seriously with the problem of food fraud. Chalk it up to the melamine-laced baby formula that killed at least six Chinese infants in 2008 and sickened nearly 30,000 others. Or maybe it was last year’s hamburger scandal, when regulators discovered that horsemeat had slipped into hamburger patties sold all over Europe, one of the world’s most highly regulated markets.

Defining Food (Editorial)

August 10, 2014

The image in this month's edition is of a restaurant in Chengdu, China, above the doors of the restaurant are the words "real cow" - which begs the question, what's "not real cow" and should we be concerned?  There are examples of "fake cow", some are quite amusing such as the German couple who have a fake cow in their garden because it is classier than a gnome, others are quite distressing such as the case in China last year when 22 tons of "fake beef" were seized by authorities.  The fake beef in question was actually cheaper pork that was treated with "chemicals including paraffin wax and industrial salts to make it look like it came from a cow".   

Horsemeat Report: Delays Concern Food Industry

July 31, 2014

The food industry has expressed concern over the fate of Professor Chris Elliott’s final report on the handling of the 2013 horsemeat scandal, which has been delayed until Parliament’s next session.

Feds Pushing to Crack Down on Foreign Seafood Labeled "US Product"

July 25, 2014

Food fraud. Seafood bought right here in Maryland, turning out to be from 100,000 miles away. It’s misleading and it’s hurting our bottom dollar.

GFSI Takes a Stand Against Food Fraud, Issues Position Paper

July 14, 2014

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) today released a position paper on food fraud mitigation. Developed by the GFSI Guidance Document Working Group in conjunction with the GFSI Food Fraud Think Tank, the paper includes new requirements to be met by for food companies looking to combat food fraud.

Food Fraud on Rise, More Consumer Education Needed

July 14, 2014

Deception within the U.S. food system is still taking place a century after Upton Sinclair’s expose on the unhealthy practices taking place in the meat packing industry. Cheaper, diluted, imposter goods are being sold to unsuspecting buyers nationally and internationally. 

Farm-to-Fork Transparency: A Global Report Card

June 24, 2014

A new ranking produced by the Global Food Traceability Center in Washington, D.C., reveals a patchwork of rules and regulations around the world when it comes to how easily food can be traced from farm to fork.

Canada ranks in the middle, alongside the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil. European Union countries Sweden and Norway rank at the top, while China and Russia sit at the bottom.

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