12 Biggest Food Lies Told by Your Grocer

Food Fraud Alert:
Take Charge
and Don’t Get Fleeced

We’ve urged you to get into the habit of reading labels when you shop for food. Most processed foods contain a laundry list of unsavory, unnatural, downright bad-for-you ingredients. Knowing what they are – hydrogenated oils, “interesterified oils,” high fructose corn syrup, chemical sweeteners, and artificial preservatives – gives you a way to avoid them.

You should also beware that many food manufacturers make things like “sugar-free,” “high in fiber,” and “all-natural.”

Food fraud has spiked significantly in the past few years. Actual fraud is when a food manufacturer adds, removes, or replaces ingredients in a food without informing the purchaser and with the goal of increasing their profit margins.

The Dirty Dozen
Favorite Lies That Food Manufacturers Tell

Olive Oil: Many brands of olive oil aren’t what they seem. Manufacturers may dilute extra virgin olive oil with lower quality olive oil. Or they may dilute it with another oil entirely, like corn oil or soybean oil. Peanut oil and hazelnut oil are also popular choices for cutting olive oil, which puts people with nut or peanut allergies at high risk.

Milk: That gallon of milk may be pure, wholesome milk from the cow, or it might be a mix of fresh milk and reconstituted milk powder.

Coffee: Ground coffee and instant coffee may both contain roasted, ground grains like corn and barley. Some ground coffee contains roasted parchment paper, ground up to match in texture. In instant coffees, experts found chicory, starch, malt, and even ground figs.

Pomegranate Juice: This tasty juice is considered to be very good for you. But, you may actually unwittingly be drinking a blend of other juices and sugar water.

Honey: Raw, natural honey tops the list of my favorite health foods. But when you buy honey at the grocery store, it’s possible it’s been cut with high-fructose corn syrup to increase the sweetness and reduce the cost. And much of the honey imported from other nations contains nasty things like heavy metals and antibiotics.

Tea: Some tea manufacturers add leaves from other plants or even lawn clippings to their products to cut costs.

Orange Juice: Few things seem more healthful than a glass of orange juice. But frankly most brands are so packed with sugar they are anything but. Beet sugar, paprika, and high fructose corn syrup have also been found in “pure” orange juice products.

Turmeric: Some unethical food manufacturers mix in less expensive spices and other fillers with their ground turmeric.

Chili Powder: Ditto for chili powder.

Fish: How well do you know your fish? Well enough to tell wild salmon from farm-raised salmon? Well enough to discern the difference between escolar and white tuna? These are two of the most common fish swaps done by food processors and restaurants.

Maple Syrup: In today’s food market, it’s hard to know if you’re getting pure maple syrup or maple syrup cut with high fructose corn syrup.

Black Pepper: This is another spice that’s commonly cut with less expensive spices. So, when you’re buying pure ground black pepper that may not be what you’re getting at all.

How to Get the Real Deal

Avoiding food fraud isn’t as easy as reading a label or knowing what some food marketing catch phrase really means.

Make your own orange   juiceStep One: Buy more whole foods. Buy whole bean coffee instead of the pre-ground stuff, for example. The same goes for your spices. It’s much easier to recognize a whole food for what it is than a ground up one. The same is true for fruit juices. Instead of drinking pomegranate juice, try eating a pomegranate. You’ll get more health benefits and be certain of what you’re consuming. If you love orange juice, try juicing your own.

Step Two: Do brand research. Some brands are very transparent. They invite third parties in to test their foods, so that you can be more confident that what you’re buying is exactly what the manufacturer says it is.

Step Three: Find local suppliers. The fewer steps in the processing chain, the less likely a food is going to be watered down, diluted, or otherwise cut. Buying honey straight from a beekeeper, for example, is a surefire way to get a high-quality product that you can count on being the real deal.

It’s a sad state affairs that food fraud has become so rampant. But with a little knowledge and effort, you can protect yourself, your family, and your wallet from these scam artists.