FDA warns of economically motivated adulteration of food products

Posted at 2:07 PM, Feb 10, 2023

When it comes to natural foods, you might be getting easily fooled.

Scientists tested manuka honey and they found many of them to be nonauthentic. Some consider manuka honey a "superfood" with positive health benefits.

"I don't think is the fault of the retailers. It comes further down the line, but that someone is putting manuka honey on a product that doesn't come from New Zealand and doesn't have the unique properties and benefits that come from manuka honey from New Zealand,” said John Rawcliffe, CEO of the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association.

Food fraud is a growing problem in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration said it happens "when someone intentionally leaves out, takes out, or substitutes a valuable ingredient or part of a food."

Things like maple syrup, olive oil and seafood have also been targeted, according to the FDA.

The FDA said consumers are often fooled that more expensive ingredients were used in the item’s preparation. Food fraud affects 1% of the global food industry at a cost of about $10-$15 billion a year, the FDA said.

It can also cause issues for those with allergies or certain diets.

“Depending on what is added, substituted, or left out, food fraud can lead to health issues, some major, and even death. Some examples include lead poisoning from adulterated spices and allergic reactions to a hidden, substituted ingredient that contains even just one food allergen,” the FDA said.

Rawcliffe said you should always check the label before you buy. Usually, if something is authentic, there will be a certification on the label that will ensure both the quality and efficacy of a product.

"If I was a consumer, and I'm going to be spending that amount of money on a product and it's a valuable product, I'd make sure that I'm getting the best. I'd make sure that it has been certified, that it has an independent body,” said Rawcliffe.

If you suspect food fraud, you can call the FDA consumer complaint coordinator for your state.