There have been many instances and scandals of fake food throughout history, the most recent being in Nigeria leading up to Christmas with the “plastic rice” which eventually turned out to be real rice that was merely contaminated with some chemicals, which is still a bad thing. The incidences in China of fake this or that seems to be all too common whether it was baby milk or counterfeit eggs. Britain has had its fair share of scandals, most notably hamburgers and beef mince from some supermarket chains that turned out to come from horsemeat.
If a product is in vogue or expensive then you will always find a fake version.
In the US they had only just made it into the first few weeks of 2016 before the first of several big food fraud scandals rocked the nation. The newspaper, Bloomberg ran the headline “The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood”. Some brands promising 100% pure parmesan cheese of purity contained no Parmesan at all, which has been happening for years with lesser quality domestic imitations of Italy’s most famous cheese deceiving consumers who think they are one in the same. Most US domestic versions use lower quality milk, lower quality production and ageing, and often contain additives – the real thing should only have salt, rennet and absolutely pure, antibiotic, steroid and hormone free milk from cows fed a natural diet. The article uncovered a new way to cheat consumers buying domestic Parmesan mixed with something even cheaper like cellulose, sometimes totalling more than 20% of the product.
American consumers had just been digesting this fraud when about two weeks later found out that their olive oil wasn’t quite what it was either and Americans (as well as consumers in other countries) have been getting routinely ripped off by fake or adulterated olive oil for more than half a century. But to many it was news when the documentary 60 Minutes estimated that a staggering 80-85% of all oil labelled extra virgin is not actually extra virgin. The really bad news is that some experts think these numbers are conservative. In one study a best-selling top national supermarket brand failed the standard 94% of the time. Fake olive oil is big business, especially in Italy where it’s a great money earner for the Mafia.
More and more scandals have hit US headlines during 2016 such as restaurant products containing lobster, like lobster bisque, lobster ravioli, and lobster salad regularly failing to include any actual lobster – including the largest seafood chain there.
While we’re on the subject of fish; in Tampa, Florida restaurant menus claiming to serve “Wild caught Alaskan Pollock” were actually serving Pollock which is a lovely fish that was really farmed in Asia and the same menu’s “Florida Blue Crab” was really a cheaper species again from Asia.
In some restaurants “grass fed” beef was from industrial feed-lot cattle, “organic” produce was not organic, Kobe Beef which is probably the world’s most expensive meat at upwards of $350 usd a steak is also not what it actually is and so on and so on. One of the worst scams was restaurants substituting pork for veal, an intolerable offence to anyone following either Jewish or Muslim dietary laws. The pork for veal swindle was hardly isolated – the New York Times had reported the same thing four years earlier. The Tampa Bay Times’ conclusion? “If you eat food you are being lied to every day.”
Honey, which is something I love, is also not immune to being faked. Like olive oil it is not what it says it is on the label. Sometimes just sucrose or other sugar syrup cut with the minimal amount of honey possible to taste like the real stuff. Unfortunately it is being produced in China making people richer and richer.
Here in the State where I live, Nuevo León, I haven’t heard of this happening as many of the honey producers are quite small which you can tell from the label. In fact, I don’t think I have heard of any cases of fake food in Mexico in general, thankfully.