Consumers are sold food products that do not match the label. For example, mozzarella is only half real cheese, pizza ham is replaced with poultry or “meat emulsion”, and frozen shrimp is 50% water – these are the results of tests conducted in a public laboratory.
Hundreds of foodstuffs have been tested in West Yorkshire and found that more than a third of them were not what they claimed to be on the label and were or were mislabelled. The results were reported to the Guardian.
Teses also found pork and poultry in ground beef, and herbal slimming tea contained neither herb nor tea, but glucose powder flavored with prescription drugs to treat obesity, at 13 times the normal dose.
A third of the fruit juices were not what the labels claimed. Half of the juices contained additives that are not allowed in the EU, including brominated vegetable oil, which has been linked to behavioral problems in rats.
Alarming Findings: 38% of 900 product samples tested were counterfeit or mislabeled.
Counterfeit vodka sold in small shops remains a major problem, and several samples did not match the alcohol percentage labels. In one case, tests showed that the “vodka” was not made from alcohol derived from agricultural products, but from isopropanol, used as an industrial solvent.
Public Analyst Dr. Duncan Campbell said: “We routinely find problems in more than one-third of samples and this is a major concern, while the budget for inspecting and examining products for compliance with food standards is currently being reduced.” .
He believes that the problems identified in his area are a small picture of the situation in the country as a whole.
The scale of deception and misrepresentation revealed during testing is unacceptable. Consumers have a right to know what they are buying and eating, and the fight against food mislabeling should be a government priority.
Law enforcement and the government must gather intelligence about fraud in the food industry and stop deliberate attempts to deceive consumers.
Food testing is the responsibility of local governments and their departments, but as their budgets have been slashed, many councils have reduced testing or stopped sampling entirely.
The number of samples taken by the authorities for verification fell by almost 7% between 2012 and 2013, and by more than 18% the year before. About 10% of local governments didn’t do any testing at all last year.
West Yorkshire is a rare exception, testing is supported here. Many of the samples were collected from fast food restaurants, retail and wholesale outlets, and large stores.
Replacing expensive ingredients with cheap ones is an ongoing illegal practice, especially with meat and dairy products. Especially rich in meat of other, cheaper types, minced meat.
Samples of beef contain pork or poultry, or both, and the beef itself is now being passed off as the more expensive lamb, especially in ready-to-eat meals as well as in wholesale depots.
The ham, which is supposed to be made from the feet of pigs, is regularly made from poultry meat with added preservatives and pink dyes, and the counterfeit is quite difficult to detect without laboratory analysis.
Salt levels set by the Food Standards Agency are often not met when preparing sausages and some ethnic dishes in restaurants. The substitution of cheap vegetable fat for milk fat, which must be present in cheese, has become commonplace. Mozzarella samples contained only 40% milk fat in one case and only 75% in another.
Several pizza cheese samples weren’t actually cheese, but were analogues made from vegetable oil and additives. The use of cheese analogs is not illegal, but they should be properly identified as such.
Using water to increase profits is a common problem with frozen seafood. A kilo pack of frozen king prawns was only 50% seafood, the rest was water.
In some cases, test results have raised concerns about the dangers of food ingredients. Herbal slimming tea contained mostly sugar and also included a drug that was discontinued due to its side effects.
Making false promises has proven to be a dominant theme in vitamin and mineral supplements. Of the 43 samples tested, 88% contained substances hazardous to health that are not permitted by law.
Fraud and mislabeling have eroded consumer confidence and deserve tough sanctions.