Some of the most common, everyday foods including olive oil, milk and honey have been identified as the most vulnerable to food fraud, says a study based on a new comprehensive database of food ingredients prone to adulteration.
After reviewing the records of top academic journals within the database set up by the US Pharmacopeial Convention, researchers concluded that the top seven foods prone to fraud are olive oil, milk, honey, saffron, orange juice, coffee and apple juice.
In 95% of the cases, adulteration involved either partial or complete replacement of an authentic material with another, often cheaper substitute. Some of the incidents of fraud involved the partial substitution of olive oil with hazelnut oil and the partial replacement of low-quality spices with lead chromate and lead tetraoxide to imitate the colour of higher quality spices.
Other deceptive methods of tampering include substitution of Chinese star anise with a toxic version of Japanese star anise and the adulteration of high protein foods with melamine, the substance at the centre of the Chinese milk scandal. Baby formula laced with the toxin sickened hundreds of thousands of people and killed more than a dozen babies over the years.