Dining on Deception

Article excerpt

The rising risk of food fraud and what is being done about it

The last time you ordered calamari from a restaurine you may have been served pig tectum. Ben Calhoun, producer of NPR's This American Lifr> first reported che story in January, broadcasting a phone call in which a meat ptocessing plant manager claims his superiori cold him that pig rectum a used as imitation calamari. And when Calhoun reached out to those bosses, they confirmed the actuation, though they could not say where the imitation calamari was being sold. Though it remains uncertain whether this fake calaman entcied the human food chain, there are countless the other instances of diners being duped by food fraud.

In February, for example, Swedish furniture maker Ikea came under fire when traces of horse meat were found in the company's signature meatballs, which arc su Id on-site in its stores popular Swede-style cafeterias. Ikea filed a police report against its supplier, Sweden-based Familjcn Dafgard, which placed partial blame on slaughterhouses in Poland wheie the meat origi' naced. A Dafgard spokesman was quoted on the Swedish news site TheLocdLeem as saying he doesn't "know wheie in the chain the crime has been committed." Luckily for the companies and ihe European consumers invoked, no one fell ill.

The same could not be said for the most notorious - and most deadly - example of food fraud. In 2008, Sanlu, a China-based dairy produce company, was accused of adding melaminc, a compound char is sometimes used to increase apparent protein content, ta powdered milk. Essentially, Sanlu was guilty of product adulteration with the intent of increasing profits. Eut melaminc, when combined with certain compounds, can be harmful- According to reports the melaminc incident killed six babies and hospitalized another 50,000, Sanlu, die manufactunrr of die tainted milk, tiled for bankruptcy soon after tbc incident.

From sausage to organic produce to pomegranate juice, food fraud and mislabeling is rampant as companies turn to cheaper alternatives of food products to inflate the bottom line. And seafood seems to be the moa popular fake food. The deception is easy since there are many fish in die sea and such limited knowledge among diners. The Food and Drug Administration lists 519 acceptable market names for fish, but more than 1,700 species arc sold, according to Morgan I iscinsky. an PDA spokesman.

In February 2013, Oceana, a marine conservation organization, launched a two-year study it called "one of the largest seafood fraud investigation! in the world to date," collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retai! outlets in 21 states. The results were shocking. Nearly nine in 10 samples said as snapper were mislabeled, while 59% of samples sold as tuna were mislabeled. Nearly half of all food purveyor, in ihc survey sold mislabeled fish, with sushi restaurants being the worst culprits by tar. Almost three quarters (74%) of seafood sold in sushi restaurants Was mislabeled, followed by traditional restaurants (58%) and grocery stores (18%).

It's a frighrening realization - no longer can consumers be sure of what they're ordering at restaurants or baying from the grocer. The recent European hotsc meat scandal is a perfect example, bur it's far from the worst. It was, however a blow to the brand image of titose involved.

Teseo, a popular UK grocery chain, raced backlash when it was forced co recall a line of frozen mearloaf after tests revealed it contained up to 5% horse meat, In the following days, die company saw its brand perception drop 1 5 points, according to market research agency YouGov, which tracks brand perception among the public,

The scandal affected Burger King too. Trace amounts of horse meat wetv found at the last food chain's supplier in Ireland a month before die Ikca incident was exposed. Though the supplier issued a recall of 10 million burger pat' ries in Britain and Ireland, Burger King decided ro transition all U. …