Fake Food Scandals: Are You Getting What You Are Paying For?

Not everything is what we think it is. Most of us read labels and think we know what is going in our bodies, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fake food industry is on the rise and thriving as there is a high demand for many foods and a low cost of production.

Here is everything you need to know about fake foods and the scandals behind them. As people become more aware of what goes in their food, more scandals surface revealing how corporations and restaurants, and its more widespread than you might imagine.

Common Types Of Food Fraud

Food fraud relates to when the food has been tampered with in some way. It also means that the description, origin, composition, or preparation of food is not truthful. The intention is to deceive the customer for economic gain.

Here are the most common types of food fraud that exist in the industry:

1. Adulteration

Adulteration happens when a food item does not meet the legal standards. The most common form of food adulteration is when another substance is added to a food item to increase its quantity. Because of this, the quality of food deteriorates. The annual cost of food adulteration in just the United States alone is between ten to fifteen billion dollars. An example of food adulteration is when milk is filled with harmful substances such as vegetable oil and urea.

2. Substitution

Substitution occurs when a high-value ingredient or part of the product is replaced with a lower value. There have been many cases of food substitution, such as substituting pork rectum for squid in calamari and domesticated animals for ground meat. Despite all of these, human consumption is still the same as many are unaware of these issues.

3. Dilution

Dilution happens in the case of liquid items. It is when a high-value liquid ingredient is mixed with one with a lower value. For example, olive oil is diluted with other cheaper alternative oils to increase the quantity and lower costs. Many times, cheaper alternative oils of different heating points are mixed with olive oil which pollutes the genuine olive oil. This puts consumers at risk as the oil become toxic when it goes beyond their heating points.

4. Misrepresentation

As the name suggests, the food product is mislabeled regarding safety, origin, quality, and much more. For example, many food products are sold as organic when they contain other ingredients. According to the Decernis Food Fraud Database, organic foods are most commonly affected by food fraud. Prices of such products may seem slightly cheaperthan other fully organic products, thereby making consumers think they’re getting a bargain.

5. Counterfeit

Counterfeiting happens when products are created as replica of the original product. Labeling, packaging, and pricing are all counterfeit to make the customer think the product is authentic.

The 8 Most Faked Foods: Top Fake Food Scandals

Now that you are familiar with the common types of food fraud, here are the top eight fake foods you didn’t know could be fake:


From lobster to sushi to red snapper, you are probably not eating what you think you are. For example, if you are eating lobster from popular food chains such as Long John Silver’s and Red Lobster, then chances are you are eating langoustine. It is not lobster, but some species of crab and shrimp mixed together.

Besides that, red snapper is one of the most commonly faked fish in the U.S. According to a study by Oceana, 26% to 87% of the time, fish is substituted in the U.S. It also revealed that 100% of New York sushi restaurants served fake fish.


Milk adulteration is extraordinarily prevalent and common in many countries worldwide. There is intentional contamination of milk and many milk products out there. For example, melamine is added to milk to enhance its protein content to pass quality tests.

The melamine scandal was reported in China in 2008. Because of this, many infants died. Besides that, here are some of the most common problems and fake food problems with milk:

• Dilution with water
• Fraudulent heat-treated milk mixed with fresh milk
• Adulteration of milk with cheap ingredients such as artificial flavors, starch, whey, and much more

• Sometimes milk is added with microbial growth inhibitors to enhance the shelf-life

All of these are severe problems and risk the health of people consuming milk and other dairy products. That is why it is important to buy from a trusted source or consider switching to nut milk.


Ground coffee and coffee beans are also not as pure as you think, despite what they may look like. According to the Food Fraud Advisors, corn husks, stones, twigs, and barley are added to coffee to increase its apparent weight. It is one of the most common in instant coffee as many of these adulterated products are found inside those packets and jars, not to mention the unhealthy non-dairy creamers and refined sugars added.

Another prevalent problem is that of counterfeit coffee beans. Many coffee producers mislabel their lower quality coffee beans as high-quality Arabica beans. Research the company before you buy coffee.

The best way to avoid fake food coffee is to buy your coffee beans, invest in a grinder, and grind them yourself at home. You get fresh coffee while staying clear of any fake food scandals.


Honey is the most expensive form of sugar, and it is easy to adulterate this food. Many producers have dilute honey with high-fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, and cane sugar. It allows the taste and consistency to remain relatively similar while cutting costs for producers of honey. There are also instances where the honey you buy is simply flavored and colored corn syrup.

Unfortunately several mainland Chinese producers have a history of adulterating various food substances and products including honey. As such, the FDA has suspended honey from China many times because of the problem of adulteration. The best way to avoid this fake food scandal is to buy raw honey from brands you trust.


Olive oil is one of the most fraudulent food commodities based on global food fraud databases from 2008 to 2013. Most of the extra virgin olive oil bottles you see are fake as cheaper oils are substituted to increase the quantity and lower the cost. Some of these substitutions are even detrimental to your health as they can lead to illnesses in the long run.

In April 2007, U.S Marshalls busted few storage facilities in New Jersey and New York. They seized counterfeited olive oils that were labeled as extra virgin. More than ten thousand cases of these oils were seized.

It turned out that the extra virgin olive oils were actually soybean oils. These bottles were worth more than $700,000. Since then, many such cases have reportedolive oil as one of the most faked foods in America. There have also been incidents in China, Europe and many other countries worldwide where olive oil fraud were uncovered.


An investigation by Bloomberg News in 2016 found that Parmesan cheese contained wood pulp. Castle Cheese Inc. was doing this adulteration and distributing their parmesan cheese to some of the biggest grocery chains out there. Wood pulp is added to parmesan cheese to prevent clumping.

Many companies use this technique of adding wood pulp to sell cheese for cheaper to stay ahead of their competition. It is essential to check the label and buy authentic parmesan cheese. Original parmigiano reggiano will always be embossed with dotted letters stating that it is genuine parmigiano reggiano.

Besides that, processed cheese is also not real cheese as it is a cheese product. That is because it contains less than 50% of cheese curds, while additives, preservatives, and other such substances making up the rest of it.


Fake meat is one of the biggest problems in many countries. From time to time, restaurants and vendors have provided people with horse meat, donkey meat, and many others. Even in restaurants in the United States, if you have paid for Kobe beef, then chances are you were duped.

That is because the importing of Japanese beef was banned from 2009 to 2012. Now, the ban has been lifted, but even then, only eight restaurants in the U.S serve natural Kobe beef. Aside from this premium meat,only less than two percent of the beef produced in the United States is USDA prime.

So, there are very high chances that at some point you have either eaten some other meat or incredibly low-quality beef, as only a minuscule percentage of it is grass-fed. That is why it is always essential to check your source and research the restaurant or your grocery store before purchasing, as it might be fake meat.


You read that right. Meat glue is a real thing that received media attention after an expose of the Australian meat industry in 2011 with some calling it "franken-meat". Steaks can fetch a higher price than loose unwanted trimmings. What some manufacturers and even restaurants do is use a substance called transglutaminase, or meat glue. This is used to glue meat pieces together to make them look like nice pieces of steak.

While transglutaminase is not harmless, given it is naturally produced in humans and animals, too much of it can cause an allergic reaction, digestive disorders, and coeliac disease which is an autoimmune disorder that disrupts the absorption of fats, vitamins, iron, and calcium.

The good news is glued meat is easy to tell apart from its real counterparts as they don’t look natural. If possible, buy meats that aren’t frozen or buy your meats from manufacturers that you trust.

How You Can Avoid Buying Fake Food

Here are some of the ways you can implement in your life to avoid buying fake food:

1. Buy Local when possible

To avoid buying fake food, it is best to buy from trusted local suppliers in your area. They don't have the means to add additives, and are more likely to have fresh and organic options. If you have specialty, natural or wholefoods store in your area, they could be a better source for small batch or unique but unadulterated foods.

2. Always Do Your Research

Before buying any product, make sure you read the label and research on the company. Everything is available online, which is why you will easily find information if they have a history of food fraud. Doing so will allow you to make an informed decision on what to buy. Doing so might take more effort but might be more cost-savings in the long run for both you and your family.

3. Verify Premium Products

There’s a good chance lower price food products are stuffed with fillers. That is not to say premium food products are always free of non-nutritious ingredients. They too have a high fraud rate as most people can't tell the difference between premium product and one that is of low quality. That is why you should do your best to verify by comparing the labels between a premium product with the same lower priced product. This will help you stay aware of the product, and you can avoid buying fake food.

Final Words

That was your complete guide to fake foods and why fake food scandals have rocked the food industry. Unscrupulous companies are fooling consumers to increase their bottomline but at the expense of consumer health and wellbeing. It is essential to know where your food is coming from and what you are putting in your body so you and your family are not consuming toxins which will be even costlier when you have to foot medical bills.

High consumption of fake foods can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes, some cancers, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. For example, over-consumption of soybean oil can lead to obesity, diabetes, and a few neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and others. In the same way, highly processed food is not good for health, which is why it is always advised to shop from trusted suppliers.

Paying more for trusted quality products will actually save you more in the long run. Putting in the effort to do your research can pay off, so you avoid putting your health and your love ones’ at risk, avoid being another victim of faked foods out there, and start enjoying real foods.

Explore some real foods in our GTCL collection.

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