Most diners would feel pretty virtuous after a meal of tuna prepared in olive oil, washed down with a glass of pomegranate juice.
But all three supposedly healthy ingredients have appeared on a lists of foods that some manufacturers are regularly bulking out with cheaper – sometimes potentially harmful – fillers and substitutes.
The ‘food fraud’ list was compiled by the respected U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, which sets quality standards for food and medicines, as it warned consumers that items on supermarket shelves are not always exactly what they seem.
Other fruit juices and jams, maple syrup and powdered spices including saffron and turmeric also appear in the organisation’s database of foods to be wary of.
According to the Food Fraud Database some manufacturers are substituting tuna for cheaper escolar, a fish that has been banned in many countries because of its links to food poisoning.
It also states that many types of pomegranate juice – which has been lauded for its health-boosting properties – that claim to be 100 per cent juice are actually diluted with other juices or sweetened water.
Some olive oils are also diluted with less pricey oils, while spices such as turmeric and chilli powder are often contaminated with ‘fillers’.
The report says foreign manufacturers have been known to add clouding agents to lemon juice and other juices to make them appear freshly-squeezed. It cites a case in Taiwan which saw around 4,000 people fall ill after ingesting products laced with dangerous pthalates – a chemical used in plastics.
The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention defines food fraud as ‘deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain’.
Dr Markus Lipp, senior director of food standards at the organisation said foods become fraudulent when a manufacturer is not honest with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other regulatory bodies about what exactly is going into their products.
He told the New York Daily News that the database was compiled to try and ‘promote informed decision making’ among consumers, adding: ‘In general, the U.S. food supply is very safe’.
The content of supermarket beefburgers was last week at the centre of a scandal that erupted when horse meat was discovered in frozen patties being sold at Tesco.