The growing number of “fake foods” scams – they may be poisoning as well as fooling you

Might that calamari you are eating actually be pig’s rectum? Watch out for the growing number of “fake foods” scams – they may be poisoning as well as fooling you and your family. And how to begin your fightback?

In recent weeks people in Europe have panicked about their eggs in supermarkets which have been contaminated by poisonous insecticides (1). This is the latest in a long list of growing scandals around the world about contaminated and/or related ‘fake foods’ scams – one which as so often the case the authorities tried to initially cover-up before the tide of outrage broke through the banks of deception (2. 2a). In Europe people really started to understand the extent of the problem a few years ago with the horsemeat scandal – where horsemeat (reputed to often contain the veterinary drug phenylbutazone) was widely distributed as beef  and even sold to Jews and Muslims with some pork content as well (3). But of perhaps greater shock was the later revelations of organised crime gangs all over Europe being responsible for this mass deception similar to how some of these gangs also were responsible for drugs, human trafficking and sex slaves.

This case had some similarities with the even more infamous case in China in 2010 of crooks putting melamine in out-of-date milk causing kidney stones in babies (4) (not to mention hordes of people purporting to be students coming to Australia to hunt around at supermarkets for the local dried milk to accumulate and send back to China at a handy profit) (5). This caused the Chinese authorities to get serious about cracking down on such rorts, but the ingenuity of Chinse food scams can’t be denied. A recent case of rat meat (etc) sold as mutton was reported to have really rattled “consumers already queasy over many reports about meat, fruit and vegetables laden with disease, toxins, banned dyes and preservatives” [Sixty-three people were arrested and accused of “buying fox, mink and rat and other meat products that had not undergone inspection,” which they doused in gelatin, red pigment and nitrates, and sold as mutton in Shanghai and adjacent Jiangsu Province for about $1.6 million] (6). China is the country where pig’s rectum (or pork bung) is cooked and sold as a delicacy not unlike Calamari. This lead to reported stories (never fully verified and so perhaps apocryphal) that fake Calamari was invading restaurants in the West – suggestions that poor unsuspecting calamari munchers were perhaps actually eating pork bung instead (7).

The truth is actually much worse. A recent book by Larry Olstead lifted the lid on a range of shocking fake food rorts even or especially across richer developed countries (8). It is now reported that more than 70% of sought after ‘extra virgin olive oil’ old in the US is either false or mis-labelled (i.e. is not as virginal or ‘innocent’ as made out) (9), ‘100 percent real parmesan cheese’ doctored with fillers as wood pulp and distributing it to some of the country’s biggest grocery chains (10). Then there is the case of fake vodka sold with methanol or  anti-freeze in it (11). And the prime meats scam sees cheap off-cuts taken and literally glued together with unsafe chemicals (  ) . And the list goes on – offal put aside for pet food diverted for human use, shellfish sold knowingly contaminated, basmati rice and packets of oregano both bulked up with cheaper item (e.g. olive leaves),  cheap eggs mislabelled as organic or free range, all kinds of fake fish products (esp. Red Snapper, Grouper, Lobster, and Tuna in sushi), brand name ripped off (Champagne, Kobi beef, Manuka honey), and so on (12, 13).

If we take a general view of all this we see two convergent tendencies. One is the use of inappropriate, unsafe and simply poisonous ‘additives’ (preservatives, taste ‘enhancers’, etc). As is well known even some accepted food and colour additives in foods can cause allergic reactions, and others have been linked to cancer, asthma and birth defects (14).The other is that if people can be fooled into thinking they are eating something else what does it really matter (so just go ahead and rip people off with fakes)? They converge in a widespread falsehood that it does not really matter what you put into your body. Thus, fake foods and poisonous additives represent the thin edge of the wedge of the modern diet myth that processed foods are okay, not damaging your health and are sustainable sustenance. A related rort is the deceptive labelling of ingredients in foods – often abused or distorted even when standards are supposedly put in place (15) . A big one you will see in any supermarket is where supposedly local foods have been processed across an extensive supply chain where the monitoring of exact and/or local ingredients has been largely lost or at least distorted and confused (16).

Because I have a developed a bowel disease from my past ‘poisonings’, I also have a hyper-sensitivity which has made my body aware of how bad unnatural, artificial and synthetic food products are for one’s health – in the long run at least in terms of the onset of dis-ease, lower life expectancy, and various chronic conditions (especially irritable bowel syndrome) all increasingly linked back to our gut [can really recommend Giulia Enders excellent best-selling overview of the new science of the gut]. The moral of the story is that like perfumes and textiles there is  also ultimately a substantial difference between natural and artificial foodstuffs – artificial too often a pale imitation of nature or the real thing (17. 18). Many traditional societies had healthy diets often involving fermented foods and other natural processes that we have lost (e.g. 19). However we can and we also need to simplify our lives and our diets… and eat healthier basic natural foods that we have confidence are not ‘fake’ in any way (20).

  • CKR 4/9/2017


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