Increased demand worldwide, supply that cannot keep up, and a product that is easy to fake makes an attractive setup for fraudsters to jump on the lucrative business of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Olive oil fraud is as old as olive oil itself, and it still flies under the radar because government agencies set priorities on what they consider more dangerous food fraud issues. EVOO is very simple to fake, and without laboratory tests, fraudulent oils often remain undetected. Fraudsters are not caught very often, and usually the existing laws do not severely punish such fraud.
Global food supply chains are complex and therefore quite vulnerable to errors or fraudulent activity. A company in Chile repackaged and falsely labeled cheap raspberries from China, reselling them as top-level organic Chilean raspberries in Canada. These raspberries were linked to a norovirus outbreak in Canada, sickening hundreds of people. A whistleblower complaint helped to uncover this fraudulent scheme that posed a significant risk to human health.
Counterfeit alcoholic beverages keep claiming lives, like in this latest case in the state of Punjab in India. To curb the consumption of alcohol, the Indian government has imposed high taxes on alcoholic beverages, with the effect of increased illegal alcohol production. Often, the alcohol is from a variety of sources like nuts and sugar cane and of poor quality, posing a health hazard. Officials raided numerous operations and arrested multiple suspects, including police officers and customs officials.
Fraudulent olive oil made its way into the retail market in Brazil. More than 1300 bottles of product labeled extra virgin olive oil were seized, the oil was analyzed and found to be fraudulent. An investigation about the source of the adulteration and whether the fraud happened at the producer or in retail is still ongoing.
USDA Certified Organic foods keep enjoying a robust growth, with fruit and vegetables leading, followed by dairy and beverages. Fraudulent organic certification is a growing problem, especially because food supply chains are becoming more complex, with a large amount of organic food now being imported. Violations by fraudulent organic certification are punishable by hefty fines and can be reported to the National Organic Program Online Complaint Portal.
The popularity of plant-based protein powders has skyrocketed, and so has fraudulent activity with so-called protein boosting adulterants. Examples are a variety of beans, such as fava beans, as well as wheat, maize, alfalfa and more. Due to the rapid innovation and development of novelty supplements, regulatory standards are in urgent need of overhaul. Correct ingredient investigation in commercial plant-based protein powders is therefore a must and was investigated in this study with three different diagnostic tools.
When we talk about the identification of fraudulent foods and beverages, many elaborate methods are available in analytical chemistry and food labs. The method of using “whiskey webs” is quite unusual in its simplicity; it is based on the unique residue left behind by each beverage after evaporation. American Whiskey is matured in new charred oak barrels that transfer a number of water-insoluble components into the final product, allowing each whiskey to leave behind its own unique “fingerprint”.
Diethylene glycol (DEG) is a substance that is highly toxic to humans. It is used in a wide range of applications, such as brake fluid and as a raw material for resins, and it is often present in antifreeze. In Brazil, more than a dozen people were poisoned by beer containing DEG. The suspected products were recalled and the case is under investigation. It is not clear yet whether the DEG was intentionally added to commit fraud, or whether the contamination was unintentional. We are observing this case very closely, since diethylene glycol has been used for fraudulent purposes in beverages in the past.
Over the course of three years, wholesale meat fraudsters in Brooklyn, NY, removed the USDA stamp on “Choice” beef and applied a counterfeit USDA “Prime” stamp to sell the fraudulently labeled meat at a premium price. A conviction can get the defendants a prison sentence of up to 20 years, even public health was not endangered, however, the USDA is taking integrity and quality of food very seriously.
A large recall was initiated by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply for Brazilian olive oil unfit for human consumption, and retailers and traders are requested to report and pull faulty products off the shelves. Large fines will be issued for non-compliance. The fake olive oils are sold very cheaply, but may be a health hazard. An infrared analysis was made to check the composition of fatty acids, which uncovered the fraud.
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