Seen and heard: food fraud news in brief

Rampant fish fraud in NY, Indian honey adulteration, fake Moroccan saffron, and dyed black pepper in Vietnam.

One in four fish sold in New York supermarkets mislabelled

A report by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has found a high level of suspected seafood fraud and mislabelling at New York State supermarket chains. The investigation, which relied on DNA testing, found that “more than one in four samples purchased was not sold under a federally-recognized market name for that species.” Lemon sole, red snapper, and wild salmon particularly prone to mislabelling, which was found in 88 per cent, 67 per cent and 28 per cent of samples respectively. The substitutes were often cheaper, less desirable, and less environmentally sustainable species, including farm-raised salmon sold as wild salmon, lane snapper sold as red snapper, and swai sold as lemon sole. “It’s clear that seafood fraud isn’t just a fluke – it’s rampant across New York,” commented Underwood. “Supermarkets are the last line of defence before a phony fish ends up as family dinner, and they have a duty to do more.”

Indian survey finds widespread honey adulteration

Laboratory tests have revealed that all 10 of a cross-section of honey brands on sale in Europe failed to meet Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) standards, reports the Consumer VOICE organisation on its website. The tests focused on the C4 sugar content of the honeys. The group says high C4 levels are an indication of that the honey has been adulterated with added sugars, although some groups insist that is not a reliable indicator of fraudulent activity. New FSSAI standards which come in to effect today (January 1, 2019) set a maximum proportion of C4 sugars in pure honeys at 7 per cent, and nine of the 10 brands (24 Mantra, Baidyanath, Dabur, Fresh & Pure, Hitkary, Himalaya, Khadi, Patanjali, Reliance and Zandu) failed that threshold with only Zandu coming in under the bar. The latter failed on other criteria, however, according to the consumer organisation.

Fake saffron hitting Moroccan farmers

Saffron farmers in the Taliouine area of Morocco say that their livelihoods are being threatened by counterfeit, low-quality crops which are tarnishing the spice’s protected designation of origin (PDO) status and undercutting their businesses, according to a article. The region is famous for its saffron (Crocus sativus), grown by small farmers using traditional techniques in the shadow of Mount Toubkal, an area that has the dramatic climate conditions (hot summers and cold, wet winters) needed to cultivate a high-quality crop. PDO-certified saffron sells for about €3 per gram, but copies laced with chemical dyes and materials from other plants are sold for less than a euro per gram. Morocco is said to be the world's fourth largest producer of saffron, behind Iran, India and Greece.

Five jailed in Vietnam for dyed black pepper fraud

A Vietnamese court has jailed five people for food safety violations after they were found guilty of bulking up black pepper with coffee bean skins and ground gravel dyed using a black powder (manganese dioxide) harvested from spent batteries, according to an article in Laboratory tests revealed that toxic adulterants made up over 18 per cent of confiscated black pepper samples. The criminals made more than 33,000 kilograms of the bulking material, giving an indication of the massive scale of food fraud. The five received sentences of between seven and eight years in jail.

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