Food Fraud: Startling Discoveries from Corporate Giants to Local Growers

Some years ago I read something startling. Oil used to wash syphilitic sores was re-used and sold for cooking purposes (in Africa). In the same book, it told of dead corpses being cut up and sold as antelope meat. It wasn’t the cannibalism that made my flesh creep; it was the fact these were humans who died of leprosy!

Since that time, I have never been squeamish about what food manufacturers do to our food. As a bunch, they are cynical beyond belief, despicable and totally untrust-worthy. Ask my wife and she’ll tell you I’m even suspicious of farmer’s markets and where all that supposedly fresh produce comes from!

If I don’t know the grower and the farm or orchard, I’m not impressed.

Nothing has changed. In the 21st century, lies about food and outright fraud are as rampant as ever. It seems that Monsanto is not the only hoaxster to worry about.

Recent stories have pinpointed the adulteration of milk, olive oil, honey, sheep’s milk cheese, Sturgeon caviar, maple syrup, vinegar and wine. Britain was in a furore a few weeks back, when it was revealed that “beef” was being sold in supermarkets that consisted of quite a lot of horsemeat; the Brits are horse lovers and that went down like a lead balloon!

Much of this is coming to light today because of DNA testing. It’s something that was not an option a few years ago and traders in fake foodstuffs could get away with lies. Now the truth is coming out—and it’s pretty ugly.

DNA testing reveals that more than 20% of fish sold in stores and cooked in restaurants are not the species claimed. In fact a survey by in the USA found the following startling facts:

  • Only four of the 14 types of fish the researchers bought—Chilean sea bass, coho salmon, and bluefin and ahi tuna—were always identified correctly.
  • Eighteen percent of study samples didn’t match the names on placards, labels, or menus. Fish were incorrectly passed off as catfish, grey sole, grouper, halibut, king salmon, lemon sole, red snapper, sockeye salmon, and yellowfin tuna.
  • All 10 of the “lemon soles” and 12 of the 22 “red snappers” bought weren’t the claimed species.
  • One sample, labeled as grouper, was actually tilefish, which averages three times as much mercury as grouper (the Food and Drug Administration advises women of childbearing age and children to avoid tilefish entirely).

See that’s one of the hazards; you may be buying certain fish for health reasons and you are not getting the true healthy species but some substitute that may give you a real problem.

This List Goes On…

“Food fraud” has been documented in fruit juice, olive oil, spices, vinegar, wine, spirits and maple syrup, and appears to pose a significant problem in the seafood industry. Victims range from the shopper at the local supermarket to multimillion companies, including E&J Gallo (wines) and Heinz USA.

A crabmeat seller on the Chesapeake Bay imports cheap crab and repackages it as Chesapeake blue crab, a different species that can be sold for twice or three times the price.

Some honey makers dilute their honey with sugar beets or corn syrup, their competitors say, but still market it as 100 percent pure and at a high price.

An expensive “sheep’s milk” cheese in a Manhattan market was really made from cow’s milk. A jar of “Sturgeon caviar” was, in fact, Mississippi paddlefish.

And last year, a Fairfax man was convicted of selling 10 million pounds of cheap, frozen catfish fillets from Vietnam as much more expensive grouper, red snapper and flounder. The fish was bought by national chain retailers, wholesalers and food service companies, and ended up on dinner plates across the country.

Peter Xuong Lam, president of Virginia Star Seafood Corporation of Fairfax, was convicted last year of selling the mislabeled catfish. Ten other individuals and companies were also charged. Lam was sentenced to five years in prison and is barred from importing food into the United States for the next 20 years.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, who prosecuted the Fairfax fish importers, said, “It was the rare exception, not the norm.” But he’s talking baloney (I mean real baloney, not the falsely labeled stuff!) How can he know what he doesn’t know? Other agency officers are more realistic: we just don’t know the scale of this crime but it’s right to suggest it is vast indeed.

The recent development of high-tech tools — including DNA testing — has made it easier to detect fraud that might have gone unnoticed a decade ago. DNA can be extracted from cells of fish and meat and from other foods, such as rice and even coffee. Technicians then identify the species by comparing the DNA to a database of samples.

Another tool, isotope ratio analysis, can determine subtle differences between food — whether a fish was farmed or wild, for example, or whether caviar came from Finland or a U.S. stream.

New techniques are easy to administer and high school students, working with scientists at the Rockefeller University and the American Museum of Natural History last year, discovered after analyzing DNA in 11 of 66 foods — including the sheep’s milk cheese and caviar — bought randomly at markets in Manhattan were mislabeled.

It’s Not The Big Guys

Just for once, it isn’t the major conglomerates that are to blame. They get suckered too.

Heinz USA and Kraft Foods, two giant food makers with well-established internal controls, nevertheless fell victim to “Operation Rotten Tomato,” a conspiracy in which the son of a California farming dynasty disguised millions of pounds of moldy tomato paste as a higher-grade product.

And E&J Gallo, the nation’s largest wine seller, sold 18 million bottles of Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir between 2006 and 2008 that had been filled in France with wine made from cheaper merlot and syrah grapes, according to a French court that last month indicted a dozen of its citizens in a scam dubbed Pinotgate.

This Is Dangerous Stuff

800 people died and 20,000 more were hospitalized, many with irreversible neurological and auto-immune damage, in the so-called “toxic oil syndrome” incident in Madrid, Spain in 1981.

In November 2008, China reported an estimated 300,000 victims of milk contaminated with melamine, with six infants dying from kidney stones and other kidney damage, and an estimated 54,000 babies being hospitalized.

The issue raised concerns about food safety and political corruption in China, and damaged the reputation of China’s food exports, with at least 11 countries stopping all imports of Chinese dairy products.

A number of criminal prosecutions occurred, with two people being executed, and another given a suspended death penalty, but this bureaucratic bloodletting hardly allays fears of serious corruption in China where, to use a tainted expression, everyone is on the make.

Food Intolerance Reaction

Those of you who know me well will realize that I care most about people who are trying to keep inflammatory foods out of their diet. It can be bad enough to suspect milk allergy, wheat and grain intolerance, allergy to fish, whatever… only to find that the reaction was not due to the foodstuff at all but the adulterated version.

Or, in the reverse, it’s even more deadly to have found a “safe” food and then eat it and become VERY sick, because it was the wrong food, or a contaminated version of it, falsely labeled as “organic” (yes, I’m cynical about most “organic” labeling too).

It’s extraordinary the effect of good pure food on our system (since over 70% of what we eat is not “natural”: grains, dairy, sugar, tea, coffee, alcohol) plus all the naturally toxic chemical compounds in foodstuffs anyway. As I reported in my book Diet Wise, it is only with the development of fire that we were able to render enough foods safe to eat that, as a result, Mankind swept all over the planet.

Be very, very careful what you buy and eat. Always choose whole foods where you can; that way you can identify it. Use your nose and tongue too!

Animals will sniff and slightly taste food and if for any reason it’s suspect, they will go hungry, rather than eat it. The typical human will wolf it down and then groan “I don’t feel good!”

If you want the REAL science of good food choices, it’s all in my book “Diet Wise”. You’ll be asking your body to choose, “What’s right for me?” Never mind all the propaganda.

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  1. “Heinz USA and Kraft Foods, two giant food makers with well-established internal controls[…]” Say what Doc… ????

    Heinz and Kraft Foods internal controls…? These two ‘processed food’ giants are putting out the GMO’s faster than they can count their cash! Makes me wonder where your loyalties and/or information come from- doc-dude… No offense, but your statements in support are disingenuous.

    • At least I don’t bad mouth others who are doing more than just sitting on their ass writing snotty comments.

  2. i earned that comment, senor Scott-Mumbey… And i sincerely apologize. i do not know enough about you or your work to point such commentary in your direction. Again, forgive me for sending that kind of energy your way- though to your credit, you allowed it to be seen on your site and responded honestly… i can dance with that.

    Perhaps it was the beginning of the article that (to me) felt like standard, corporate fear-mongering (i.e. leprosy/antelope meat, syphilis sore oil, etc), especially in the absence of citing references or naming the book- which is a well-oiled tactic used by the other side.

    i stand by my research of Heinz and Kraft Foods. Giving them credit for “well-established internal controls” while they pump out GMO’s -again- seems disingenuous for someone bearing your credentials- thus the suspicious commentary.

    If anyone is going to put themselves in the spotlight of ‘knowing’ then the questioning of sources and one’s perspective becomes inherent in this undertaking. Personally… i have to remember to avoid personalizing my commentary and it questioning in anyone’s direction. Thank you for the upright reminder… 🙂

    Many blessings, dear brother.

    • OK Francois.
      You don’t need to panic, I HATE conglomerates like Heinz and Kraft. They are toxic in their own right.
      My only point is that they would not like to be caught by a DNA test selling fake stiff but, despite their considerable resources, they were.
      As for the book citation: it was over 30 years ago friend. I’m 68 and reputed to have a very comprehensive memory but I do not remember the name of the book… but I do remember who gave it to me! Dr. Hilary Web of Dublin (long dead).

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