Food Fraud Up by 60 Percent, Report Finds

The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) finds that pomegranate juice, olive oil, lemon juice, and tea have high rates of fraud

In light of the fake-calamari story from last week's "This American Life," not to mention the horse-meat-in-burgers scandal in the U.K., it's safe to say that grocery stores might be lying to us, all day, everyday.

According to additional research from the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), a nonprofit that released the Food Fraud Database last April, food fraud has jumped 60 percent since their last study.

Almost 800 new records were added to the database from 2011 and 2012, finding that in most cases, liquids are often fradulently labeled.

Extra-virgin olive oil? Probably diluted with cheaper oils. Supposedly 100 percent lemon juice probably has water and sugar added in. Tea leaves might also include lawn grass or fern leaves.

Last year's study found that olive oil, milk, and honey had the highest number of fraud instances, but pomegranate juice is also commonly tampered with, USP says, as pear and grape juice can get added in. "Pomegranate juice is a high-value ingredient and a high-priced ingredient, and adulteration appears to be widespread," Markus Lipp of USP said. "It can be adulterated with other food juices…additional sugar, or just water and sugar."


Other products to watch out for: Spices, which can have food colorings, and seafood (escolar often gets mislabeled as white tuna or albacore). Time to only buy whole ingredients from farmers' markets.