In past blogs we have written about the need for full disclosure food label laws, in order to safeguard the consumer's right to know what is in our food . With our current food label requirements or lack thereof, navigating the food mine field of pesticides, antibiotics, GMO's and other toxic ingredients is difficult to say the least. In addition, consumers also have to contend with food fraud in order to have a healthy meal.
Food fraud is defined as the adulteration, dilution or mislabeling of goods stocked on the shelves. In other words, the food you think you are buying may be something altogether different. Food fraud is found to exist in many common items such as fish, alcohol, spices, fruit juice, honey, milk, olive oil and even baby formula, to name a few. For example, when you buy Red Snapper fish fillets, it is difficult to know if you are actually getting Red Snapper or fillets from a cheaper fish with the same appearance and texture. When you pay a premium for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, it is difficult to know if you are in fact getting the oil from the first press of the olives.
While it is difficult to quantify the percentage of food fraud in existence due to all the undetected and unreported cases, estimates range as high as 30% percent for some foods. The highly profitable nature of food fraud, suggests its existence is based on greed and indifference. Unfortunately, financial loss is not the only consumer problem when dealing with food fraud. In many instances, consumers are unaware that food is being substituted with a cheaper and sometimes toxic alternative, or ingredients that many are allergic to such as those that are peanut based. Accordingly, food fraud is potentially dangerous to your health.
In order to avoid food fraud, consumers must be vigilant when reading labels and in their selection of foods. It is recommended that consumers buy brand name products, as they tend to have more safeguards in place in order to protect their reputation. In addition, consumers should look to buy foods that are minimally processed (if at all) and foods with short supply chains, such as those at local farmer markets. If you are aware of a case of food fraud, you should report it and have your information become part of the database at foodfraud.org.
Perhaps the best way to effectuate a change for the better, is by consumer action like that currently taking place in the state of Washington. Proactive consumers in Washington have effectively proposed new GMO label laws that will be voted on this Fall. In this post Twinkie age we live in, the need for consumers to be proactive and protect themselves, has never been more necessary.
Long Island Lawyer
Paul A. Lauto, Esq.