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The Rise Of Food Fraud
January 23, 2013 4:50 PM   Subscribe

'A new study on food fraud was released Wednesday morning by U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention'. As part of the study, nearly 800 new records - a 60% increase from last year - were added to their searchable online database of food fraud reports at foodfraud.org. 'The new records show that the most commonly fraudulent products are olive oil, milk, saffron, honey and coffee. Tea, fish, clouding agents (used in fruit juices, like lemon, to make products look freshly squeezed), maple syrup and spices (turmeric, black pepper and chili pepper) were also top imposters.' 'Clouding agents were found in 877 food products from 315 different companies.'

'Food fraud, as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the adulteration, dilution or mislabeling of goods. USP further defines food fraud in the study as "the fraudulent addition of nonauthentic substances or removal or replacement of authentic substances without the purchaser's knowledge for economic gain to the seller."'

'U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP),' is 'a scientific nonprofit organization that helps set standards for the "quality, safety and benefit" of foods and medicines.'

So how can you defend yourself as a consumer? A number of tips are given, including a call to lobby the FDA: 'Petition the FDA to set standards for the most commonly fraudulent products, like honey and olive oil.'
posted by VikingSword (88 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
The more things change, the more they stay the same:

"Sylvia Pankhurst gave as an example of sweated labour in her 1931 book, The Suffragette Movement, the work of women whose job it was to rub minute pieces of wood into seed shapes so they could be added to raspberry jam made without the aid of raspberries. Outraged, she opened a factory making jam from real fruit at affordable prices to create jobs for pacifist women during the first world war."
posted by Lou Stuells at 4:57 PM on January 23, 2013 [25 favorites]


The FDA can't regulate vitamins and herbal quack remedies. Why would you trust them to do anything? Just stick with the things Dr. Oz says will make you skinny and you'll be fine.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:04 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Never, ever, eat anything that says "Made in China".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:06 PM on January 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


And increasingly, if you want to eat 'real' food, you have to pay double the price for the premium brand.

In Austria, €1.49 would buy me real, high-fat yogurt with actual lumps of strawberry in it. SPAR store brand, at that.

In the US, a similar amount of money buys me yogurt substitute, made with whey protein, starch, and food colorings to make it look strawberry-colored. They're honest about the ingredients on the label, but they still get away with calling it "yogurt".

And it just fucking isn't yogurt.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:08 PM on January 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


Previously.
posted by zennie at 5:11 PM on January 23, 2013


I once, while short on funds, bought a jar of "raspberry jam" that was so cheap the only two things written on the label as an enticement to buy were "WITH COLOR AND PECTIN!" I believe this was the same shopping trip where I picked up a bag of 80 "chicken" nuggets for $4.00 which looked and tasted like what I believe wet newspaper must taste like.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:11 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The FDA can't regulate vitamins and herbal quack remedies. Why would you trust them to do anything?

The FDA is wildly underfunding and woefully understaffed. If people start pressing Congress about food fraud, FDA might actually be given some resources to do something about it.

In the meantime, like Chocolate Pickle, I don't buy food made in China. And I will use the "organic" label as a shorthand way of avoiding high fructose corn syrup. And I shop at my local farmers' market, that seems the best way to know that you are getting what you are paying for. But not everyone has those options, and the folks who have to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart or wherever deserve to get real food too.
posted by ambrosia at 5:13 PM on January 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


In China, apparently fake eggs are a problem.
posted by Catblack at 5:19 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The FDA is wildly underfunding and woefully understaffed.

Yeah, take all their money away, restrict what they can do, and then say "see, government doesn’t work"
posted by bongo_x at 5:22 PM on January 23, 2013 [29 favorites]


Is there any way to find specific brands or cases? Just looking at coffee I see several reports of added roasted barley and grains. As someone with a gluten problem this is not good.
posted by bongo_x at 5:24 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


CNN (and consequently the FPP) completely miss the issue with clouding agents. The issue isn't that clouding agents are used in food (though there really isn't a good reason to allow them). The issue is that 877 products had plasticizers in them in place of accepted clouding agents (like palm oil), because the plasticizers were cheaper, though not allowed. One common chemical they identified being used as a clouding agent was DEHP, used in Taiwan:

Safety concerns surrounding DEHP include cancer and the improper reproductive organ
development in children.

posted by ssg at 5:25 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look, this will all be solved by unfettered capitalism. When enough people die from eating something, the market will eventually adjust.
posted by ODiV at 5:29 PM on January 23, 2013 [27 favorites]


More details: Taiwan food scare 'dates back decades'
posted by ssg at 5:29 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a pretty terrible junk food habit, but more and more I'm just buying very basic staples and raw/whole foods that don't come in bags and boxes and eating those.

The shorter the ingredient lists, the better.

This month I spent something like 1/10th or 1/8th of my total monthly food stamp budget just on seasonings, and we're just talking about a new bottle of cumin, oregano and a bottle of molasses so I could make baked/bbq beans. It's not like I blew it on saffron threads or something.

But it's actually a bargain since they'll last for a few months and make pounds and pounds of good beans from scratch, and other things.

Read your ingredient lists, even if you're "shopping organic" or at Whole Foods or something.

If it comes in a box, plastic bag or wrapper and it has full color printing on the label you probably don't even want to eat it.
posted by loquacious at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dried chilli is perhaps the most surprising to me - not because it would be hard to fake, but because chillis are easy to grow, have a long season, and are very prolific, thus cheap!
posted by smoke at 5:31 PM on January 23, 2013


In the US, a similar amount of money buys me yogurt substitute, made with whey protein, starch, and food colorings to make it look strawberry-colored. They're honest about the ingredients on the label, but they still get away with calling it "yogurt".

There's Fage and Liberté yogurts now, a bit under your Euro cost, which you might like. Real yogurt, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:31 PM on January 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


The shorter the ingredient lists, the better.

Not a very useful approach when the problem is that the ingredients list doesn't match what's actually in the container.
posted by hattifattener at 5:34 PM on January 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


For people jonesing on real yogurt.

Buy real plain yogurt (real plain yogurt is pretty easy to come by still). Buy real jam. Take a spoonful of jam and add it to plain yogurt. Stir stir stir. Eat eat eat.

It's cheaper in the long run than small yogurt cups with nasty jam stuff at the bottom. And much tastier.
posted by aspo at 5:35 PM on January 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


Buy real plain yogurt [...] Stir stir stir. Eat eat eat.

This is how we manage to go through more than a gallon of (hopefully non-adulterated) maple syrup every year (in our household of two).
posted by uncleozzy at 5:37 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Crap. There's a product out there, purporting to be extra virgin olive oil but it contains lard. I take it that there is not a way to find out which brand of olive oil that contains lard?
posted by NoMich at 5:38 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, what is the deal with yogurt in the states? If I want plain old plain yogurt, I can't get the Von's/Safeway brand anymore because it too has stabilizers that make it more pudding-like.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:40 PM on January 23, 2013


Blazecock Pileon: "There's Fage and Liberté yogurts now, a bit under your Euro cost, which you might like. Real yogurt, too."

Aah, I forgot to mention that these weren't little cups- I was getting half a liter for €1.49.

These days I just pay up the $3.50 and get full-fat plain Stonyfield Farm and mix in my jam of choice.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:47 PM on January 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


The wife is always annoyed with me when we're shopping because I stand there and read the damn label. When she goes shopping alone she always comes back with 'bargains' that are store brand. I try to explain that saving a few bucks ends up with us purchasing less healthy food. And for that matter food that just doesn't taste good. And she reacts as if I'm insulting her.
posted by Splunge at 5:48 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or just make your own yoghurt - get some milk that you trust, add a small amount of probiotic yoghurt, cover, shove in fridge for a few days. Save a little bit for starter for making the next batch.

I'm sure there are more detailed instructions out there on the net.
posted by porpoise at 5:50 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah if one is going to be growing bacteria cultures it probably behooves one to make sure one knows what one is doing.
posted by silby at 6:01 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Alton Brown's Yogurt Recipe
posted by Splunge at 6:05 PM on January 23, 2013


Never, ever, eat anything that says "Made in China".
Sewer Oil [Warning: graphic pictures].
posted by unliteral at 6:09 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


God Bless America.

Also, naturally and as usual, let me say that if you haven't read The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner, you should if at all possible stop what you are doing and go do that right now.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Never, ever, eat anything that says "Made in China".
Sewer Oil [Warning: graphic pictures].


I don't even want to know how much of that crap I ate when I was in Beijing. The street food was just too goddamn tasty! I'm surprised no one I knew got sick from the food. From dubious alcohol, yes, but food, never. I also hope I don't develop liver cancer after reading about yet another Chinese milk scandal since that brand of milk was what I drank a lot of when in Beijing...

I've just come to terms with the fact that I'm probably going to die just a little earlier from who knows whatever I'm eating and the crap air I'm breathing over here in Hong Kong. I can't complain about the air that much since Beijing was soooo much worse, but it's still pretty bad compared to the US. I'm pretty sure most of the produce I eat is Made in China too and I don't even want to think about all the random chemicals that get sprayed onto those. If only I could afford to eat organic over here...
posted by astapasta24 at 6:17 PM on January 23, 2013


Re: fake eggs:
the paper outlined how the fakes were made: prepare a mould, then mix the right amounts of resin, starch, coagulant and pigments to make egg white. Sodium alginate, extracted from brown algae, gives the egg white the wanted viscosity. Then add the fake egg yolk, a different mix of resin and pigments. Once the proper shape is achieved, an amalgamate of paraffin wax, gypsum powder and calcium carbonate makes for a credible shell.
Yeah that sounds... way easier than watching chickens.
posted by odinsdream at 6:18 PM on January 23, 2013 [16 favorites]


Can someone explain making yogurt to me? I mean, why you would bother? A gallon of organic milk and a gallon of organic yogurt costs about the same. Why do all that work?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:28 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What gets me is major chains casually lying on their menus. Don't tell me your burger is kobe beef, or that I'm getting "fresh seasonal fruit" when it obviously comes out of a god damn can. It's the apparently legal above ground lies that really get me, I expect a certain amount of skulduggery and black-marketing, but I really don't like that so many consumer food places can flagrantly lie.
posted by Stagger Lee at 6:29 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is actual kobe beef in the US now, btw. It's not always a lie.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:30 PM on January 23, 2013


I moved cross-country in 2010 and had to outfit an apartment from the ground up, in three and a half days, before I'd gotten my first paycheck.

At the time, I bought some Wal-Mart brand honey. Turns out I don't eat a lot of honey, so it's been sitting on my counter for 2.5 years. I used some last week and there's no crystallization, no increased viscosity, no loss of aroma or flavor, just no change in all that time--I could fill it up and put it back on the shelf and you'd never know it was that old. So now, after reading this and a few other pieces on suspect honey, I really want to know just what is in this honey bottle. I'm a little concerned it didn't come from any bee in North America.
posted by librarylis at 6:32 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]



Never, ever, eat anything that says "Made in China".
Sewer Oil [Warning: graphic pictures].
posted by unliteral at 6:09 PM on January 23 [+] [!]


Us industrialized populations are far, far too humble when we praise indigenous peoples for using every part of the animal.
posted by Stagger Lee at 6:33 PM on January 23, 2013


Honey lasts forever, it's not necessarily fake.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:34 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]



At the time, I bought some Wal-Mart brand honey. Turns out I don't eat a lot of honey, so it's been sitting on my counter for 2.5 years. I used some last week and there's no crystallization, no increased viscosity, no loss of aroma or flavor, just no change in all that time--I could fill it up and put it back on the shelf and you'd never know it was that old. So now, after reading this and a few other pieces on suspect honey, I really want to know just what is in this honey bottle. I'm a little concerned it didn't come from any bee in North America.
posted by librarylis at 6:32 PM on January 23 [+] [!]


Probably just cheap, pasteurized honey? Like the rabbit said, honey lasts forever. Do some reading on China and honey though. Apparently smuggling low grade, possibly contaminated honey is a thing too.
posted by Stagger Lee at 6:39 PM on January 23, 2013


Ok, last yogurt derail, I swear.

The Trader Joes "European style" yogurt is really Straus and it's really good, and $3 for almost exactly a liter. And even if you buy the branded stuff (or other brands like it) they are generally ~$4 liter. Which is €3 a liter, or €1.50 a half liter.

I'm not saying there's not a lot of crap yogurt in the US, oh for sure there is, but there's plenty of decent brands out there and they really aren't that expensive.
posted by aspo at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem is labelling about where things are made can also be misleading. Marketplace did a segment a few years ago about what "Product of Canada" means. Turns out it doesn't mean the contents actually come from Canada. Instead, so long as 51% of the cost of producing the food was spent in Canada, it can be so labelled. So.... food fully produced in China, chock-full of resins and melamine and who knows what else, can be sold as garlic, Product of Canada, as long as the jar and label cost enough.

There's a whole thing starting here about how none of the fish sold under the Highliner brand, packed in Lunenberg and labelled product of Canada, is Canadian caught. I was thinking of that story when I listened to This American Life's pig rectum calamari expose last week. They also mentioned during the TAL story that almost 40% of the fish sold in the US is fraudulently labelled.
posted by looli at 6:47 PM on January 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also: For olive oil, which does have a gross amount of fraud, but not just in the US.

California Olive Ranch is pretty damn good for the price and is going to be unadulterated. But the real key to olive oil is buy it someplace that has high turnover, because with olive oil being trendy there's plenty of grocery stores that have all sorts of silly olive oils that barely sell and sit on the store for ages. Olive oil is better than most, but it still goes bad in about a year.
posted by aspo at 6:53 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't feed your pets anything from China either.
posted by surplus at 7:26 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


it probably behooves one to make sure one knows what one is doing

Eh, making yoghurt, making homebrew, whatever. I like Splunge's Alton Brown, but growing up a (probably) pure culture in a favoured permissive media is pretty damned safe, especially without the heat (Lactobacillus is pretty dominant and grows just fine, if slower, at 4'C - arguments can be made about the taste; cold-growing bacteria have different protein expression profiles and preferred metabolic pathways than optimal-temp-growing bacteria). But optimally, you'll want to "wake up" the Lactobacillus.

Turn it into a science experiment and do a gram stain on a sample once the milk has been turned into yoghurt.

--

As for fake food - it's not so much what the ingredients list lists, but the problem is when that list isn't accurate or otherwise patently false. Or misleading - monosodium glutamate is often called "yeast extract" because, well, yeast extract has a lot of MSG and MSG can be isolated from yeast extract. Or even worse, a manufacturer can be perfectly truthful in disclosing what the ingredients are - but the manufacturer may have been misled into believing that their sourced ingredients are what they think they are instead of a fake or adultered product.

--

And not only China - Britain saw horse DNA in ground beef.
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on January 23, 2013


There are two groceries near my house: the cheap one and the snob one. I once went to the cheap one to buy juice, and I could not find any juice there that contained fruit, water, and modest amounts of sugar as the main ingredients. Every single damn one had weird additives, corn syrup, some sort of chemical fruit analogs, or other madness.

That's what you get for juice when your only affordable neighborhood store is the cheap chain one.
posted by zippy at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honey lasts forever, it's not necessarily fake.

Yes, I know, which is why I went hunting for more information before commenting. I found a PDF from the National Honey Board that seems to imply that though honey does last forever, one should expect some changes in that honey (specifically crystallization, but also changes in odor and looks). That PDF notes that there's still some variation in how the sugars crystallize (fructose more slowly than glucose), which is why I wanted to know more about the composition of the honey Wal-Mart sells. The honey I have is eerily similar to honey several years newer than it, with no change in odor, looks, or viscosity.

The biggest source of adulterated honey is China (by way of India) and they've exported so much that the stat in that LA Times post is that 75% of all honey sold in the US is either not honey or is adulterated. The specific brand of honey I mentioned in my original comment is called out as problematic in that Food Safety News release. So, I'm suspicious with good reason--and if you buy honey in the US, you should be, too.
posted by librarylis at 7:37 PM on January 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Actually, I'm making my own yogurt RIGHT NOW. Here in Toronto, 750 ml of Astro Balkan yogurt (live culture, 6% MF) costs $1.99 if you get it on sale, but it is usually priced at $2.99 to $3.49. Strain it and you get lovely Greek-style yogurt, while the whey can go in baking or smoothies.

Meanwhile, I can buy a few 1L cartons of 5% MF light cream for $2 each when they are on sale and make 1 L of yogurt on a weekly basis without waiting for a yogurt sale.

1) Heat cream to 185-190F in a double boiler. Whisk at intervals to avoid forming a skin.
2) Once it hits temperature, put the whole container into a large bowl with some ice water. Let cool to about 110F.
3) Take out about a cup of the tepid cream, mix in 1-2 T of yogurt, mix all back into an appropriate container.
4) You want to keep the proto-yogurt as close to 110F as possible for a few hours. Cover and wrap its container in some towels and put it in a barely warm oven that has been turned off or another reasonably warm / insulated place, like a picnic cooler.
5) Let stand 4-5 hours.
6) Put newborn yogurt in the fridge to continue setting.
7) Strain.
8) Eat.
9) Do not die at this time.
posted by maudlin at 7:45 PM on January 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


Bee Wilson's book Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee is an immensely readable and horrifying look at food scandals from yesteryear. Just finished it last week and have been recommending it ever since. She covers everything from how medieval guilds used to mandate what exactly could go into a loaf to how the fear of adulterated food lead to the rise of brands.
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:58 PM on January 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Around here (Argentina) it can be quite an issue to get proper cold meats for your sandwich if you want to save some money (of course you can always go for the expensive stuff that is of pretty good quality, but then you should make your sandwich pretty much a monthly event, with prices as they go now). Some of it is starched up to the eyeballs, and full of artificial flavoring enough to float a canoe. Not to mention the supposed pig cuts are many times faked with cheap cow cuts or worse. The life of the sandwich lover around these lands can be hard and full of stomach ache pills I tell you.
posted by Iosephus at 7:58 PM on January 23, 2013


Whoa, that sounds like some amazing yogurt, maudlin. Making it with light cream is genius.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 7:59 PM on January 23, 2013


i'm still waiting for the fda to fix 'cheese', 'juice', and 'organic'.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:02 PM on January 23, 2013


North America is rapidly becoming New China. If your family isn't extremely wealthy, your descendents are, in all likelyhood, going to be as fucked as a Chinese peasant.

We had a good run for a few decades.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:22 PM on January 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Barry B. Palindromer: "Whoa, that sounds like some amazing yogurt, maudlin. Making it with light cream is genius."

By all rights, the milk ought to have enough cream in it. But whole milk isn't even whole milk. They skim it down to 3.25%. Yet again, the price of the real good has gone up, we're just paying less for an inferior product.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:27 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The new records show that the most commonly fraudulent products are olive oil, milk, saffron, honey and coffee

Saffron.

I've tried to get good saffron. I ask them, in the supermarket, "is the saffron good?"

They always say "yes, the saffron is good."

But they lie.

The saffron is not good.

I know this guy who says he has good saffron.

I'll let you know if I can get some for you.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:35 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain making yogurt to me? I mean, why you would bother? A gallon of organic milk and a gallon of organic yogurt costs about the same. Why do all that work?

Where I live, a gallon of high-quality whole milk costs a little more than one quart of equivalent quality full fat yogurt--say, about five bucks for the gallon of milk versus a little over four bucks for the quart of yogurt. So you can do the math on why I find making yogurt to be a good deal.

I then strain my yogurt and use the whey in other fermented deliciousness. Some might say this is time consuming but I tend to do such things in bulk, and whey will sit quietly in the fridge for a while in a jar to wait for me to use it to extend the life of the homemade mayo or whatever I'm going to do with it.

But generally speaking, one does weigh the cost of time and effort with food preparation, against desire for quality. I pay more for some things because it's more important than paying more for other things that don't seem to matter as much, and I spend more time making certain things from scratch because the resulting quality feels more valuable than the time I spend, and worth much more than it would cost to buy it ready-made.
posted by padraigin at 8:44 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


spamandkimchi: Bee Wilson's book Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee is an immensely readable and horrifying look at food scandals from yesteryear.
It's not bad and worth reading, though she goes on ad nauseam at points, especially when talking about the guy who started the anti-food fraud push in England in the early days of modern science. Related is Extra virginity : the sublime and scandalous world of olive oil, which I'm just starting into and have found better-written so far.
posted by Decimask at 8:46 PM on January 23, 2013


Could be worse.

Ginger Jake:
Jamaica Ginger extract, known in the United States by the slang name "Jake," was a late 19th century patent medicine that provided a convenient way to bypass Prohibition laws, since it contained between 70-80% ethanol by weight.
...
"Jake" was not itself dangerous, but the U.S. Treasury Department, which administered the Prohibition laws, recognized its potential as an illicit alcohol source, and because of this, it required changes in the solids content of Jake to discourage drinking. The minimum requirement of ginger solids per cubic centimeter of alcohol resulted in a fluid that was extremely bitter and difficult to drink. Occasionally, Department of Agriculture inspectors would test shipments of Jake by boiling the solution and weighing the remaining solid residue. In an effort to trick regulators, bootleggers replaced the ginger solids with a small amount of ginger and either castor oil or molasses.

A pair of amateur chemists and bootleggers, Harry Gross and Max Reisman, worked to develop an alternative adulterant that would pass the tests, but still be somewhat palatable. They sought advice from a professor at MIT who did not realize it was meant for internal consumption. They settled on a plasticizer, tri-o-tolyl phosphate (also known as tri-ortho cresyl phosphate, TOCP, or Tricresyl phosphate), that was able to pass the Treasury Department's tests but preserved Jake's drinkability. TOCP was originally thought to be non-toxic; however, it was later determined to be a neurotoxin that causes axonal damage to the nerve cells in the nervous system of human beings, especially those located in the spinal cord. The resulting type of paralysis is now referred to as organophosphate-induced delayed neuropathy, or OPIDN.

In 1930, large numbers of Jake users began to lose the use of their hands and feet. Some victims could walk, but they had no control over the muscles which would normally have enabled them to point their toes upward. Therefore, they would raise their feet high with the toes flopping downward, which would touch the pavement first followed by their heels. The toe first, heel second pattern made a distinctive “tap-click, tap-click" sound as they walked. This very peculiar gait became known as the jake walk and those afflicted were said to have jake leg, jake foot, or jake paralysis. Additionally, the calves of the legs would soften and hang down and the muscles between the thumbs and fingers would atrophy.

Within a few months, the TOCP-adulterated Jake was identified as the cause of the paralysis, and the contaminated Jake was recovered. But by that time, it was too late for many victims. Some users did recover full, or partial, use of their limbs. But for most, the loss was permanent. The total number of victims was never accurately determined, but is frequently quoted as between 30,000 and 50,000. Many victims were immigrants to the United States, and most were poor, with little political or social influence. The victims received very little assistance, aside from being the subject of a few blues songs recorded in the early 1930s (e.g. "Jake Walk Papa" by Asa Martin, "Jake Leg Blues" by the Mississippi Sheiks, "Alcohol and Jake Blues" by Tommy Johnson and "Jake Liquor Blues" by Ishman Bracey).

Although this incident became well-known, later cases of organophosphate poisoning occurred in Germany, Spain, Italy, and, on a large scale, in Morocco in 1959, where cooking oil adulterated with jet engine lubricant from an American airbase led to paralysis in approximately 10,000 victims, and caused an international incident.[1]
Stuff was still being used in some airplane hydraulic systems when last I looked a few years ago, and some flight attendats and other airplane workers have blamed it for making them sick.
posted by jamjam at 8:54 PM on January 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm a bit sceptical about the raspberry seed story. I can't imagine that such tiny things could be made convincingly at any rate of speed, or that the manufacturers would find it cost-effective.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:03 PM on January 23, 2013


if you haven't read The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner, you should if at all possible stop what you are doing and go do that right now.

As ob1quixote said.

True.
posted by hank at 10:25 PM on January 23, 2013


This sounds like typical grist for a Metafilter bitch session.

I have a hunch that food here in North America, and probably generally around the globe, has never been more as honest or high quality than it is now.

Still, this relatively high quality of life we enjoy doesn't make gutter oil sound any more appetizing.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:23 PM on January 23, 2013


Most Parmesan Cheeses in America are Fake, Here's Why

The article is about more than Parmesan Cheese.
posted by vacapinta at 12:21 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've tried to get good saffron. I ask them, in the supermarket, "is the saffron good?"

Try a health food store with a bulk herb and spice section - there may be some folk who will care more about that stuff.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:55 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I"ve had trouble with the Saffron available in Supermarkets (in the Netherlands and UK) big supermarkets. Albert Hijn and Sainsbury's

Often it just doesn't seem to be Saffron. Or its a few threads of actual Saffron bulked out with something else. When you add it to warm water it doesn't bloom with colour the way it should and the taste is only vaguely of saffron.
posted by mary8nne at 2:09 AM on January 24, 2013


I'm a bit sceptical about the raspberry seed story. I can't imagine that such tiny things could be made convincingly at any rate of speed, or that the manufacturers would find it cost-effective.

The QI elves reckon it to be true, although they have been wrong before.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:28 AM on January 24, 2013


One of the better American yogurts is Mountain High. Tillamooknis good too if you can get it. Used to be that yogurt often had gelatin in it. Mountain high never did.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:18 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit sceptical about the raspberry seed story. I can't imagine that such tiny things could be made convincingly at any rate of speed, or that the manufacturers would find it cost-effective.

One of the benefits of the Industrial Revolution and the Labor Movement is that for the first time in history, things are less valuable than people. You'd have a watchmaker put in hundreds of hours on a single piece, or women manufacture fake raspberry pips, because the cost of labor was next to nothing compared to the cost of material, and the profits seen in selling the things they made was way out of proportion for the owners and patrons.

Part of the problem China is seeing - "waste oil", fake eggs, crippling smog, etc. - stems from the lack of a middle class, no organized labor and no political involvement afforded everyday people.

These things are either coming, as they did in the US, Europe and Korea - or they are not, and China's Century will start to look a lot like the Soviet Union Century. They either join the world as one of history's great civilizations renewed, or they wind up an irredeemable basket case after an unsustainable burst of endeavor, and this is because the game is rigged against autocracy, and has been since WWII. (Which is why the US was so eager to install dictators - it makes a nation easier to control and keep poor and powerless.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:41 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it Dairy Day on Mefi? Cheese and Yoghurt on the FP! God I'm hungry.
posted by marienbad at 5:47 AM on January 24, 2013




"Yet all three are in Kraft 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese (I’m not sure if that means it is supposed to be 100% “parmesan” or simply 100% grated, which it certainly is). It’s far enough from the real thing that Kraft was legally forced to stop selling its cheese labeled Parmesan in Europe."

It's not even grated! it's powdered!
I'm no even convinced they should be allowed to call it cheese.
posted by Stagger Lee at 6:01 AM on January 24, 2013


You people talk of yoghurt like it is a staple of life. If I am on omnivore, heavy on protein, light on carbs, how often should one be eating yoghurt? Also Soylent Green is people.
posted by Gungho at 6:04 AM on January 24, 2013


I'm no even convinced they should be allowed to call it cheese.

A friend once had a cheap (99p IIRC) frozen pizza from a supermarket here in the UK, which had "cheese-style topping" (no, it was not a vegan pizza).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:25 AM on January 24, 2013


There's Fage and Liberté yogurts now, a bit under your Euro cost, which you might like. Real yogurt, too.

Thus answering the age-old question 'so what does Greece export?' (Fage).
posted by ersatz at 7:12 AM on January 24, 2013


Part of the problem China is seeing…stems from the lack of a middle class, no organized labor and no political involvement afforded everyday people.

Similar to America's dwindling middle class, 11% unionization and falling, and deliberate and egregious voter disenfranchisement. TPTB are purposefully destroying what we once had.

It's good to be King.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yogurt update: I left it in the oven for 5 hours last night. Tasting it this morning, I got something set but soft, with a relatively mild, sweet flavour. Yogurt will get tangier after a few days in the fridge, but if you like more assertive yogurt from the start, try leaving it to develop for more time before you refrigerate it. See what 7 hours gives you. I wouldn't leave it out for longer than 12 hours.
posted by maudlin at 9:30 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thus answering the age-old question 'so what does Greece export?' (Fage).

As someone with a stockpile of Fage yogurt in the office fridge, I can tell you that it's made in the USA by Fage USA. At least the stuff we get in this country. And yes, it is the finest Greek yogurt you can buy - no other commercial yogurt has a thicker consistency or smoother flavor. I wait until it goes on sale for $1/cup and buy enough to last me until the next sale.
posted by exhilaration at 9:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]



Can someone explain making yogurt to me? I mean, why you would bother? A gallon of organic milk and a gallon of organic yogurt costs about the same. Why do all that work?


"Because it's there"

- George Mallory when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest

Maudlin - thanks for the recipe. Would like to try it out one of these days.
posted by 7life at 9:54 AM on January 24, 2013


Never, ever, eat anything that says "Made in China".

Wow, that's offensive! A culture that prides itself on food that's now having its youngest generations ruined by the influx of cheap Western junk food. By all means, just keep eating the same shit you've been eating.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:16 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


In China, apparently fake eggs are a problem.

In the West, apparently fake news stories based on racist ideas about how those darn unscrupulous Chinamen will fake anything are a problem.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:20 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the process that goes into making a "fake egg" seems less like a thing that unsuspecting poor people in China would pay 15 yuan for, and more like some "Molecular Gastronomy" bullshit that rich people in Manhattan would pay $100 for.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:52 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I buy local single-source honey. It has the source hive number and location printed on the paper tamper-alert strip affixed to the cap. I've read too many scare stories about adulterated imported honey to trust anything that comes in a bear-shaped container.

My maple syrup is a known factor. I get it from my dad, who makes it from maple sap. No other ingredients, just boiled sap. He runs the outdoor ed program for my hometown school system, and the 4th graders tap trees, collect sap, and make syrup every spring. On the downside I had to spend many, many spring breaks carting sap buckets in the snow, but on the plus side I don't know anyone else who gets gallon jugs of fresh maple syrup for free. (And he always saves the best stuff for home use - the last batch out of the finishing pots is sometimes so concentrated that it crystallizes in the jug, for some bonus maple candy.)
posted by caution live frogs at 11:20 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've read too many scare stories about adulterated imported honey to trust anything that comes in a bear-shaped container. ... posted by caution live frogs

But of course.
posted by maudlin at 11:36 AM on January 24, 2013


I don't see the women performing artisanal lifelike carvings of raspberry pips. I think they assumed nobody would look too closely at the pips in the jam and see that they were random tiny bits of wood instead of raspberry pips.

(Now I'm unhappy about what might be in my breakfast granola. You could hide a LOT of wood shavings in there.)
posted by bad grammar at 12:28 PM on January 24, 2013


In the West, apparently fake news stories based on racist ideas about how those darn unscrupulous Chinamen will fake anything are a problem.

I don't read racism into that at all - people here in the US have had to read Sinclair's "The Jungle" as part of their education, and are fully aware it can and has happened here as well.

Product and food safety have been a huge issue in China due to corruption and nonexistant regulation and enforcement. Some people here in the US lost their pets due to adulterated Chinese pet food, and that's really hard to live down.

If you read the article, the primary source is from Chinese media, and the author can't definitively rule it a hoax. Even if the egg thing is baloney, there's the issue of "waste oil", honey adulteration, milk adulteration, etc, etc, etc.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:36 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree that there are instances of adulterated Chinese foods. But China makes a lot of food. What percentage of food that comes from China is adulterated? Probably an exteremly small portion. Judging a group of anything by a small group of anecdata is going to offend someone.
posted by Quonab at 1:00 PM on January 24, 2013


I think that racist/xenophobic thinking does come into play with a lot of these "food from China" stories, certainly. North American companies play fast and loose with the rules, lobby to have regulations stripped away and are generally looking at their own bottom line at all times - yet North Americans consider the China stories to be imminently more believable in a sort of urban legend way.
posted by SassHat at 2:13 PM on January 24, 2013


I've tried to get good saffron.

Our local organic store has good saffron. I can't remember the exact price, but I've never bought such a miniscule amount of any spice before. Even so, it was far more powerful than I imagined it would be and lasted a good while. It's sort of like Thai peppers, as in you need very little to flavor a large dish, and any more than that is overpowering.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:01 PM on January 24, 2013


I've had some unpleasant encounters with 'Butterfish':

http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodborneillness/foodborneillnessfoodbornepathogensnaturaltoxins/badbugbook/ucm071191.htm
posted by compound eye at 8:13 PM on January 24, 2013


Don't ever eat any food made in the USA. They allow HFCS, and the meat is virtually guaranteed to contain e. coli, and, probably, BSE.
That's not over simplifying things, is it?
posted by bystander at 10:50 PM on January 24, 2013


The Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park does jam recycling. Any jam that customers don't finish gets sent back to the dish room, where the ramikins sit open all day next to the dish machines. Before dinner, one of the waitresses is tasked with scooping out all the jam, getting rid of any obvious non-jam objects, and putting it into fresh ramikins to be sent back out.

It's enough to put you off your food or something.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:42 AM on January 25, 2013


Cry xenophobia all you want, but you know damn well that your risk is higher the lower the standard. American food standards are shitty, but they are leagues ahead of the standards in Mexico, Chile, China, and a good many other poor nations.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:46 AM on January 25, 2013


Some people here in the US lost their pets due to adulterated Chinese pet food, and that's really hard to live down.

Some people here in the US lost human family members to American produced foods that were tainted as well. It happens every day (warning: scary) even in America. Pinpointing China as the source of all evil is based on incident reporting (both real and fictional) conflated by ideas that China is lawless and its people somehow bad. The truth is that China is largely poor and still developing its infrastructure, industry, and regulatory structure. The Chinese people are neither more nor less unscrupulous than people elsewhere in the world. Saying that you will not eat things "made in China" ignores the fact that large portions of the food consumed in the developing world comes from places even more impoverished and less developed both industrially and regulatorally.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:05 AM on January 25, 2013


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