A disturbing look at how unscrupulous entrepreneurs can tamper with our food supply.
According to Evershed (Biogeochemistry/Univ. of Bristol) and conservationist and science writer Temple, the modern food processing system, with its complex food-supply chain and the ever present consumer demand for the lowest possible price, provides countless opportunities for malfeasance. While the adulteration of honey with corn is a relatively benign example, the undisclosed addition of ground nuts to cumin and other spices can prove fatal for allergy sufferers. The authors state that their purpose in writing this book is twofold. They want to alert consumers to the need for vigilance when shopping for food—even at their favorite supermarket—and inform them about how forensic analysis by food inspectors helps protect them. As consumers become more aware of the issue of authenticity in the food they eat, hopefully they will be able to make better choices. Evershed and Temple believe this to be especially important now, at a time when climate change and increased consumer demand in countries such as China create supply problems that enhance the opportunity for charging higher prices. The authors report cases in India of diluting milk and the well-publicized scandal of counterfeit baby formula in China. Pumping scallops with water to increase their weight is another example of tampering. The authors’ recommendations include purchasing whole, locally grown food from local markets where its provenance is known. They relate how, in 2010, when the olive crop was sparse, California tested imports of oil purported to be Spanish virgin olive oil and found it to be adulterated. The scarcity of overfished species has also created opportunities for fraud, as unscrupulous distributors mislabel fish to disguise their points of origin. Private laboratories now offer DNA testing to wholesale importers and large-scale retailers to authenticate the provenance of the fish they sell.
Not pleasant reading for the faint of stomach, but a valuable guide for serious, conscientious shoppers.