On Legitimate Food & Wine Part 3: Food Fraud and Other Shenanigans

This month, Claudio is digging into the real world of food and wine, exploring and sometimes exposing the food we eat and the wine we drink in his four On Legitimate Food & Wine blogs.  Don’t miss the final blog, part 4, coming on Wednesday.

Or is it the other way around?

By know you all have heard that IKEA meatballs contain horsemeat and have been recalled from 10 countries – 10 COUNTRIES!  Someone please tell me: Why would anyone buy meatballs, and why at IKEA of all places? Is it because they are a Swedish company?  I can see buying stuff that’s hard to make at home, like shoes. But meatballs?  So now everyone’s so surprised they put horsemeat in the meatballs.  What else is in those things, I wonder.

Food and wine adulteration and fraud go back to Roman times.  Amphorae (jars used by the Greeks and Romans to carry oil or wine) shards found in Rome (dating back to 100 BC) show marks in red and black ink with details of the contents certified by state inspectors.

Are you worried about what’s in your food and beverages? You should be. Food fraud these days is everywhere, and the government does a very poor job of controlling it, despite all their claims and huge budgets devoted to “protecting the public”.  You have to do some work yourself, for the sake of your health and your wallet.

Food fraud comes in basically two forms:

First, Misrepresentation, where you are lied to about the origin of the food or the process involved, etc. This is very common in the beverage industry where you are told, for example, that a wine is made right here when in reality it comes from somewhere else. When you go wine tasting, please ask to see where the wine is made.  Many tasting rooms do not make their own wine, even here in Temecula. Rather, they have it made by others at a factory winery that makes wines for many clients. Or, the wine is simply purchased elsewhere and sold as estate produced. Another example of misrepresentation is the amazing looking “organic” vegetables you see at the supermarket. No one who has a home vegetable garden would ever be fooled.

Second, Adulteration, like in the case of Extra Virgin Olive Oil where the oil is walnut oil with chlorophyll, or the “I Know Equine Appetizers” meatballs, or the Chinese powdered milk.  Obviously adulteration is much more dangerous and it gets more attention by the authorities, as it should.

So what can we do?  Eat and drink locally made foods and beverages.  Visit where they are made and packaged. Get to know the folks involved.  Look up their websites and look for details of their manufacturing facility, their farmland, where and how they grow their animals, who is involved in the process.  Your local farmer’s market, winery, brewery, dairy, etc. are probably OK.  Can you see tanks in the yard? Does the place smell like wine? They are probably legit.  Does the “micro brewery” look like a giant restaurant with a few decorative accessories “tanks” behind glass?  And you think they make the beer there? …No.

Support your local producers and get to know them and chances are you’ll get quality and won’t get screwed–it’s that simple, really.

Best and see you at the winery,


Posted by , March 18, 2013 No comments

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