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'Food fraud' found in United States

9:02 PM, Jan 22, 2013   |    comments
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By Sandra Endo, CNN

If you think you know what's actually in the food you're buying, you could be wrong, and you may not be able to rely on the label.

Fish, olive oil, honey and wine. Items on your grocery list but you may be buying something else. Experts call it economically motivated adulteration, or simply "food fraud."

"About 10 percent of the food you buy in the grocery shelf is probably adulterated," said Shaun Kennedy with the National Center for Food Protection and Defense.

Meaning it's mislabeled, diluted or misrepresented. Some of the biggest culprits are fish products.

"You think you're getting crab, you're getting fake crab," said Kennedy.

Then there's fruit juices.

"In some cases, pomegranate juice has been found to be nothing more than water, citric acid and red food coloring," said Kennedy.

Sometimes juice is labeled as fresh squeezed, when it's really made from concentrate.

And olive oil. Experts say 65 percent of extra virgin olive oil tested at the grocery store is actually diluted with lower grade oils.

"Consumers have almost gotten used to this flavor, these off flavors that reflect the defects you find in bad olive oil," said Dan Flynn with the UC Davis Olive Center.

And honey.

"We now have the problem of honey laundering," said Kennedy.

That's right, honey laundering, where honey from countries with trade embargoes is shipped through approved countries then sent to the United States.

Expired infant formula and wine are also on the list of fake or mislabeled products.

Researchers say food fraud costs the U.S. $10-15 billion a year, and counterfeiters rake in the cash.

"I think question comes down to enforcement and clear standards and the U.S. right now has neither," said Flynn.

"In the end, just as with any problem with food, if there's a problem, it's the consumer who pays, either a higher price, or through illness," said Kennedy.

The FDA requires all food labels to accurately indicate what's contained in the food. The agency issues a warning to manufacturers. If it finds mislabeled or misrepresented products, the products that do not fall into compliance can ultimately be pulled from the shelves.

Experts say consumers should be careful of something that looks too good to be true. If it's cheap, the quality may not be as good, and try to shop for trusted brands.

CNN

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