When I was a child, going to the grocery store with my mother each week was an adventure… now it is a nightmare.
The same excitement that filled my eyes as I raced through the aisles, sneaking snacks into the cart is now replaced with disappointment.
Why the change? Well on top of now being restricted to a few aisles of high-priced organic products, now I have to worry if the food I am buying is actually what the label says it is.
Yes, believe it or not, food fraud, is at all time high.
“Most people would be surprised at the everyday foods and drink which are being counterfeited, and the volume of seizures shows that this is a serious global problem,” said Michael Ellis, head of Interpol’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting unit.
Last year, media outlets reported on February 25, seven in 10 lamb kabobs sold in British takeout restaurants were bulked up with cheaper meats and on March 14 that pork DNA had been found in a school’s chicken sausages. Another reported that 90 percent of South African kudu (antelope) jerky was actually horse, pork, beef, giraffe, kangaroo—or even endangered mountain zebra (Food Quality & Safety).
As a conscious consumer, this is quite disheartening. Never would I have imagined that the beef I purchase could actually be horsemeat, or that road salt is being sold as food salt, or those organic eggs I bought last week could actually be battery-caged eggs (EPRS, 2014).
Right now, there is no EU definition of food fraud, but it is best explained as food that is placed on the market to intentionally decieve the consumer.
For instance, in Italy an organized crime network behind the distribution of fake champagne was discovered. In Bangkok, Royal Thai Police recovered more than 270 bottles of fake whiskey, as well as forged stickers, labels and packaging. Officials in the Philippines seized nearly 150,000 fake stock cubes, and French police identified and shut down an illegal slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Paris. (Europol, 2014)
Wales blogger Sian advises readers to turn to their own pantry, and make their favorites dishes from scratch. But while that may be a healthier alternative, what do you do when even the basic ingredients are counterfeit?
To tackle the age-old problem, a new five-year project, led by the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), will attempt to close gaps in counterfeit food research.
The Food Integrity project is supported by 12 million euros of EU funding, and brings together 38 international partners.
“The UK has some of the highest standards of food safety in the world and is home to some of the best minds in science,” said Defra Minister for Food George Eustice. “I’m immensely proud that we have been chosen to drive world-leading, cutting-edge research that will improve our ability to prevent food fraud.”
For more information, visit www.fera.co.uk/events/foodIntegrity2014.