Did you know that some common foods you might use every day are foods that are often mislabeled? The mislabeling of food is known as food fraud, and it has increased 60 percent in the last year. Producers who mislabel foods do so in an effort to make more money by adding or substituting cheaper ingredients without informing consumers. Food fraud has become common enough that the USP has created a database to keep track of foods that are often mislabeled. Food fraud is not only unethical; it is also a safety issue due to food allergies and the use of potentially toxic ingredients. Therefore, it is important to be aware of food fraud and how you can avoid it.
Many people buy honey expecting to get a natural sweetener, and some people even pay a little extra for raw honey, which has vitamins, minerals, and antibacterial properties. However, honey is one of several foods that are often mislabeled, and unless you are careful, the honey you buy may have corn syrup added to it. If it does not have corn syrup added, it could also be so refined that there is no trace of pollen left, which means it technically cannot be called honey any more. One way to ensure your honey is indeed 100 percent honey is to purchase it from local beekeepers or to pay a little extra for a brand that you have researched and trust.
2. Olive Oil
The mislabeling of olive oil accounts for 16 percent of the cases of food fraud, which makes olive oil the most susceptible food to be mislabeled. The mislabeling of olive oil can occur in two ways. First, your expensive Italian olive oil might not be from Italy. Second, your olive oil might have other oils, like sunflower or vegetable oil, added to it. To avoid buying mislabeled olive oil, you want to look for the North American Olive Oil Association seal or the International Olive Oil Council seal. Both of these seals mean the olive oil has been approved as 100 percent olive oil.
Saffron is the stamen of crocuses, and it is an extremely expensive spice. In fact, a small amount of quality saffron can cost over 50 dollars! Personally, I have never used saffron, but it is common in certain cuisines. If saffron is a spice you use, you should know that it is commonly substituted with turmeric, poppy petals, and sandalwood dye. With saffron, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Next to olive oil, fish is one of the most mislabeled foods in the United States. Often, expensive fish is fraudulently labeled, and is in fact a cheaper fish. It can be quite difficult to tell the difference, especially if you are purchasing frozen fish. This is not just a problem in grocery stores. Fish in restaurants are commonly mislabeled as well. One study found that 84 percent of the white tuna sold in Japanese restaurants was not tuna. It was escolar, which is a fish that can cause gastrointestinal problems. If you want to be sure you are getting what you are paying for, most experts recommend buying fish whole so you can recognize what kind of fish it is. It can be very difficult to differentiate between different types of fish once they have been butchered.
5. Wild Salmon
Wild salmon is very healthy. It is high in omega 3 fatty acids, and has less PCBs and mercury than farmed salmon. However, not all wild salmon is truly wild. The current rules allow salmon to be labeled wild even if it has only spent half of its life in the wild. I find this to be very frustrating, but there are ways to make sure you are buying actual wild salmon. First, fresh salmon that is purchased between November and March has probably been farmed at some point. Also, if it is fairly inexpensive it is probably not 100 percent wild. Lastly, you should know that sockeye salmon cannot be farmed. This is because commercial attempts to farm them have been unsuccessful. So, your best choice if you want wild salmon is to purchase sockeye salmon.
6. Maple Syrup
When you are purchasing syrup for your morning pancakes, you need to read the label carefully to make sure you are buying pure maple syrup. Just because it has a picture of a maple leaf, it does not mean it is maple syrup. It could be high fructose corn syrup with maple flavoring. Read the label to make sure you are buying pure maple syrup. You can even save some money and buy grade B maple syrup, which has more minerals since it is less refined.
7. Raw Almonds
Raw nuts and seeds are extremely healthy. All of their vitamins and minerals have been retained, and they are much less likely to go rancid. However, it is quite difficult to purchase raw almonds in the United States. Legally, all almonds that are produced in the U.S. must be pasteurized using either high heat, steam, chemicals, or irradiation. If you are paying extra for raw almonds you should know they are not truly raw unless they have been imported. You can buy imported almonds that are raw; however, if these are hard to come by, look for steam pasteurized as these are the next healthiest option.
If you are like me, you want to know that you are getting what you are paying for. It is very frustrating that food fraud exists. However, if you are aware of the foods that are commonly mislabeled, you can buy these products carefully to ensure they are in fact what you think they are. Did you know that common foods are mislabeled?