Is Food Fraud Taking Over the Restaurant Industry?

Is Food Fraud Taking Over the Restaurant Industry?

By Shehwar Ali

What is Food Fraud?

Food fraud is an estimated to be a $50 billion annual industry. This booming enterprise makes a hefty profit by deliberately substituting, tampering or misrepresenting food components. Hence, the term ‘food fraud’ is used.

How Is the Food Industry Getting Away With It?

The fact is the ever increasing complex food industry has made it difficult to monitor and regulate policies related to food fraud, making it a relatively hard target to catch. Several studies have revealed that 25-70% discrepancies exist in the mislabelling of food which are sometimes misrepresented in restaurant menus as well. A recent analysis of the components of a pizza, carried out by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, found that it was made from 35 different ingredients that passed through 60 countries on five different continents. It was also found that many restaurants, including those whose slogan is ‘farm to table’, are literally lying about almost everything on their menus – and what’s worse is that you will never know about it.

Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative tells us that a lot of the food fraud occurs in grocery stores and retail shops. But, what’s most shocking was the difference present in the menus and products being served. These food deceptions are thought to be deeply penetrated in the food service industry where some of this fraud occurs way up the supply chain – and most are considered legal as well!

What Are the Top ‘Fake’ Foods?

The top ‘fake’ foods served worldwide are surprisingly some of the most lavish: Kobe beef, red snapper and truffle oil. The accusations made regarding their quality, freshness and the source of ingredients (grass fed, farm fresh, freshly caught…) are most likely FALSE. Others include coffee, olive oil, honey, champagne, seafood…the list of food deception goes on and on.

A Sustainable Food Economy: Are We Dreaming?

Just as a sustainable environment and climate are top concerns, so is a sustainable food system. With increased technology, a lot of consumers believe that their food supply is well protected from fraud and counterfeit products.

This situation and hence its realization is frightening because of the mere fact that customers will never have a guarantee of what’s in their food.

Nevertheless, there are still a lot of reputable restaurants which continue to serve the best food in town in terms of quality and authenticity. Be a conscious consumer and don’t hesitate to research strange ingredients or work to verify the claims a food provider may be feeding you.

Here are a few resources that can you help you out: The Food Fraud Database, Food Fraud Mitigation Guidance, Food fraud vulnerability assessment – PwC and SSAFE.

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