Are you victim of these six common food fakes?

Friday 8th February, 2015  

  • Dodgy handbags are one thing but could you spot fake saffron?

  • The food clones that we all need to be wary of

  • Donít make it a costly lesson to learn -buy safely


So, with snow lying on the ground and the temperature dial in the car reading -3.5C, my beloved decided it was a good day to have a look at the market fair.

Needless to say I wasnít overly impressed, but being the devoted and loving husband that I am (cough!) I smiled sweetly and piled on the warm weather gear.

It was a bitter day with wind slicing from the North Pole, frost forming on the ends of everyoneís noses and much clapping of hands and stamping of feet in evidence.

To keep my spirits up I started a little game of spot the fake.

For instance... a 'Louis Vittoní genuine leather suitcase for £20 seemed a real bargain, and the chap selling it didnít flinch when I pointed out that the true designer spelt his name ĎVuittoní.

ďThatís because there are many designers in France with similar names and this was just one of the gifted ones like the other more famous one... besides £20 for a real leather case is a bargain in itself!Ē

Then there were the myriad of cheap designer perfumes available for £5 when the true cost in the shops was £30-40.

Chances of them being genuine?..Nil; chances of getting very irritated skin?.. Racing certainty.

A pair of Northampton brogue shoes, available for a mere £30, when the shops want over two hundred for them was a tempting offer.

And so it went on, stall after stall with obviously fake or replica goods on offer Ė and people seemed to be snapping them up.

On our journey home, where I attempted to convince my blood that travelling to my legs was a viable option once again, I ventured to Lara that folk were easily deceived, and must surely realise their folly when the bags, shoes and perfumes fail.

But, she said, they donít care. As far as they and their friends are concerned if it has a label or badge on it then itís the real deal.

I despair!

The food fakes that we all need to be wary of

The fakery problem doesnít just affect dodgy bags at a market though.

Food is now becoming one of the most faked products across the European market; here are the six most commonly cloned foods on sale:

1) Saffron. Gram for gram this exotic spice is more expensive than gold, and is the stamen from a specific species of crocus which is widely grown in Iran, Morocco and Spain and is expensive as it is only able to be harvested by hand and each flower yields just three golden threads.

Being so expensive makes it very attractive for the fakers though, who substitute marigold or calendula flowers and even dyed silk threads.

The Daily Mail reported in November last year that an Essex farmer had revived the UK production last seen in Tudor times Ė but that it was fetching £75 a gram which was putting some buyers off.

But it was guaranteed quality and certified purity and that was more than enough for Fortnum & Masons to buy his entire output for the year.

2) Olive oil. Blame Jamie Oliver for this one! Ever since the cheeky chappie has been splashing it all over, demand in the UK has rocketed, and alongside this the growth in the point now that the UK authorities say that it is the most faked food on sale.

Even major supermarkets are stocking product that is less than 50% pure, let alone not the extra virgin oil that the label claims it to be.

Olive oil is also frequently diluted with imposter oils such as hazelnut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, palm oil and walnut oil. One [sample] even contained rendered lard!

3) Coffee. Donít be fooled by fancy packaging and hermetically sealed jars. Grinding up chicory, corn and even twigs is a common deception in jars of blended coffee.

If you buy your own beans and grind them yourself then you are at less risk of falling foul of this common scam... but donít let the big brand names give you comfort, no-one is safe.

4) Maple Syrup.  Pure syrup is a delight, being tapped from the tree it is then boiled to evaporate the water and create the golden, sweet and rich joy with the characteristic flavour that any self-respecting pancake deserves to be coated by!

Once again though this simplistic purity is achieved by costly and time consuming methods and cheaper syrups are flooding the market made from high fructose corn syrup, caramel and flavourings. But still commanding a very high premium.

5) Orange Juice. Really! Testing of shop juice has revealed added sugars, grapefruit and apple juice, pulp washings and even chemically enhanced petroleum by-products masquerading as vitamin C.

Youíd think that real juice from a squeezed orange would be safe, but no... the fakers canít resist a quick buck.

6) Honey. This one is dear to my heart. It isnít just the  Manuka Honey that we all love that is subject to falsification, although thatís something I have written about extensively before... and why you have to make sure that you buy only the pure and raw honey. 

Honey is one of the most commonly mislabelled foods, representing 7 percent of food fraud cases brought in the US last year. 

American food regulators tested shop bought honey and found that 75 percent of it didnít contain any pollen. This means you might still be buying a product made by bees, but with no pollen traces it makes it impossible to identify the honeyís source. 

Even more worrying was the results from further testing which found that a third of all phony honey was imported from Asia and was contaminated with lead and antibiotics.

A lesson learnt

We all know that some things are too good to be true, and believe that we can spot a fake when we see one.

But food fraud is a growing business for the disreputable, and one that we are all subject to.

So, if you see a bargain offer for Manuka Honey... it probably isnít. 

Donít forget the traders doing this stuff arenít silly enough to call in Nanuka Honey... or Manooka... or Manyka... they are much cleverer than a leather bag salesman in Bristol.

Only buy whole foods from trusted shops and producers to avoid disappointment.

Yours, as always





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