Standards of Identity are legal definitions of food products, just as are standards of quality and fill. They are defined and maintained by the FDA under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act for staple foods like dairy products, milk, cream, sour cream, eggs, and different types of chocolate, cocoa and other foods. And like I said, they’re supposed to promote honesty and protect us consumers. Even if you don’t know about them.
But to be clear, the dramatic rise in this type of food counterfeiting is outright illegal. It is fraud, and we’re all paying for it. Ironically, most of the offending foods USP found to be “cheapified” or adulterated are the premium ones considered healthiest.
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Pomegranate juice, olive oil, tea, coffee, milk, lemon juice, seafood, and maple syrup top the list. Honey is being mixed with cheaper sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. Spices like saffron, turmeric, black and chili peppers are being cut with cheaper varieties. Fillers like fern leaves in tea and watered-down liquids were some of the other top imposters.
Using cheaper substitutes or extenders is a common trick. For example, cheap chocolate is often “extended” with carob and wax, and coffee has been found to contain roasted chicory, traditionally popular in the South. Chicory root or chicory powder has also been detected in instant coffee, cocoa, cocoa mix and cocoa powder. Melamine has been found in milk. Corn, sunflower, soybean, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and paraffin oils have all been discovered in “pure” coconut oil. Expensive argan oil, now being used in natural food store cosmetics, has been found tainted with soybean oil. These are just a few examples. You're supposed to get what the label says.
Crime of the 21st Century. No one knows the true cost of food-related fraud, but product counterfeiting has been described by the FBI as the crime of the 21st century. Overall it “costs an estimated $600 billion in global trade and wreaks dire consequences on global health, safety and economic consequences for individuals, corporations, government and society," according to A-CAPPP, the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program at the University of Michigan.
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Yet in an environment, a culture stretching from Washington State to Washington, DC, where virtually NO ONE is accountable or takes responsibility for their actions, what do you expect? Do you think the food industry is any different?