4 Food Scams That Can Stunt Your Savings
What you see is not always what you get, especially when it comes to food. Before you spend your hard-earned money at the grocery store, watch out for several scams that could put an extra dent in your wallet.
Companies have been known to alter, dilute or mislabeling goods to make a profit. According to the Huffington Post, a study in the Journal of Food Science reported that some of the most commonly faked products include olive oil, milk and honey. "We're seeing similar trends in food to other items -- if it can be faked, it probably is," says Tara Steketee, the senior manager for brand protection at OpSec Security, an anti-counterfeiting consulting firm.
Milk is the second most common adulterated item, accounting for 14 percent of cases in the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention's Food Fraud Database. Companies will add water to dilute it, and add melamine to increase the protein content. "Consumers may consume the product and may not be aware of the quality variation," John Spink, associate director of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program at Michigan State University and author of the Journal of Food Science article, says.
Spices are another top counterfeited item, as companies are counting on the fact that the average consumer can't attest to their purity. Saffron represents 5 percent of food fraud cases, while vanilla extract, turmeric, star anise, paprika and chili powder are also commonly adulterated. Make sure you're buying reputable brands that you've come to trust.
Fruit juice labels may say "100% juice," but when it comes to expensive varieties, it may not be 100 percent of what you want. For instance, pomegranate and cranberry juice are often cut with apple juice. In the case of labels that don't have any notes about juice content, you could be paying for watered-down beverages, particularly because it's easy dilute juices without causing a noticeable change in the taste or consistency.
Honey represents 7 percent of food fraud cases. What you're buying may still be a bee product, but when store honey was tested by Food Safety News in 2011, more than 75 percent of it did not contain pollen. Without pollen, regulators cannot determine the product's origin and therefore don't recognize it as honey. It's very difficult to determine whether your store-bought honey is truly pure, despite what the label may say. Consider buying from your local farmers' market, or research a reputable brand before plunking down money for your honey.