This is bad, but I’m not entirely surprised

The Good Life Letter 

12th April 2019

  • Fake honey news shocker
  • Yet another food swindle revealed from a long line in history
  • How to avoid those sneaky food cheats
This is bad…

But I’m not entirely surprised, to tell the truth.

As reported in the Sunday Times on March 31st, a series of tests has found worrying levels of fraud in the honey production business.

Those products you see with lovely reassuring labels on the supermarket shelves aren’t always what they claim to be.

Some allegedly “pure” honeys actually contain foreign sugars, colourings and flavourings, making them anything but pure.

The analysis was carried out by FoodQS, a German laboratory that tests honey for purity and accuracy of labelling.

They sent their findings to The Food Standards Agency (FSA), who have issued a warning.

The FSA might not have been too surprised either…

Only three years ago, they ran tests on 147 honey samples and found that 5% failed to meet industry standard.

Professor Chris Elliott, a UK government expert in food crime, has said of the honey trade: “There is a lot of fraud around its origin. Adulteration is also likely in honeys used to sweeten foods like cereals.”

It just goes to show that you cannot always trust the foodstuffs you see on supermarket shelves.

And if you’re going to buy honey, particularly as a health remedy, it’s best to find a product that’s traceable to the source, and then laboratory tested by a third party.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, for the best manuka honey you should look for products with the New Zealand Fern mark to prove that it’s a genuine product, plus the Manuka5 certification (MPI Global Manuka standard) to ensures it’s proper Manuka Honey, direct from New Zealand.

This one, for instance, is traceable to the hive, untreated and unadulterated, as proven by lab tests endorsed by the New Zealand government: GENUINE Raw Manuka Honey

This latest honey scandal is by no means unusual…

Food swindles have a long line in history

There’s a great book by Bee Wilson called Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee.

It came out about ten years ago, but it’s still very relevant and a good read if you’re interested in food and nutrition.
Wilson begins her book by describing the work of German chemist Frederick Accum, who lived in London in the 1820s.

On a mission to expose the dodgy food cheats of the industrial revolution, he used the latest scientific techniques to analyse what was really in the food being sold.

He discovered vegetables that were made to look greener thanks to copper, sweets coloured with lead, and coffee that contained mainly dried pea grounds and very little coffee at all.

Food fraud is nothing new…

Back in the medieval times, the selling of dodgy bread was such a serious issue that it became a crime for a baker to produce goods that didn’t match strict criteria for ingredients, size and weight.

Bakers who were caught selling bad bread were dragged through the city with their dodgy loaf tied around their neck.

By the 19th century, advances in chemistry and industrial manufacturing made it even easier to cheat when making food.

Our scientific hero Frederick Accum had no pity on these cheats, and believed in punishment for their crimes.

He complained that “the man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the high-way is sentenced to death; while he who distributes a slow poison to a whole community, escapes punishment.”

How to avoid those sneaky food cheats

These days food fraud continues to exist, despite more regulation.

Examples include organic products that aren’t really organic, beef burgers that are actually horse meat, olive oil that’s diluted with soybean or seed oil…

And there are other “cheats” or sneaky tricks that are legal – or tolerated – but which also dupe the buyer.

For example, low sugar health options that contain high levels of artificial sweeteners… “low fat” products that contain artery-clogging hydrogenated fats... meats that appear to be from independent farms which are entirely fictional.

A big example is fish oils…

Many of the capsules on sale are so over-treated they lose most of their nutrients. Some are rancid. Others are mixed with non-fish oils.

In a test a few years ago, it was found that 21 of the 30 big names had 10% less omega-3 than claimed on the packaging.

This is why I recommend a krill-based omega-3 like this one, which avoids all the problems with rancid or adulterated fish oil capsules: the benefits of krill

When it comes to cheats and tricks, it’s the supposedly healthy food that you need to watch out for.

The food industry is desperate to get its products labelled as healthy, which is why so many are keen to get the “one of your five a day” logos on their products.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, this is seriously open to fraud.

In order to use the “one of your five a day” logo, manufacturers simply send a cheque for £100, along with a signed promise that the product contains pure fruit or vegetable matter without the addition of salt, fat or sugar.

No product sample is needed!

To avoid falling for this trickery, the key is to try and shop for whole products, looking for items that are as close to their natural state as possible, before adulteration can happen, before chopping and shipping strips it of its nutrients.

For example, last week I told you about how bagged salads were full of treated gas and chlorine wash. This is another example of what happens when you mess too much with the natural product.

They can insist on the packaging that it’s healthy, fresh, pre-washed food that you can eat straight away – but is it really?

You don’t have to go and spend loads on organic veggies in super-posh wholefood shops. Just try and buy in season where you can, from local markets, supermarkets and farm shops.

I’ll be back with more on Sunday.

Enjoy your weekend!
Yours as ever

Ray Collins



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