September 1, 2015

Processed Foods, 100% or Adulterated? - Part 2

According to a congressional report and food “experts,” here are a few products often found to be adulterated.

Olive Oil

Olive oil may be thinned out with hazelnut, soybean, corn, peanut, vegetable, or canola oil. The final product may even contain no olive oil at all. “When oil is ordered in bulk, the bottle will say 100% olive oil, but most times it’ll be 70% canola or soybean oil,” says Selina Wang, PhD, research director at the University of California Davis Olive Center. The olive oil you buy in the store may be adulterated as well, she says.


More than three-fourths of honey sold in U.S. stores is not what is claimed on the label, says Vaughn Bryant, PhD, professor of anthropology at Texas A&M University. He regularly tests honey in grocery stores. Bryant says it is estimated that 91 million pounds of honey entered the U.S. illegally from other countries last year.

Imported honey may contain pesticides and antibiotics. To save money, some companies will add cane, corn, or beet sugar, as well as rice syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.


Seafood producers may substitute less-expensive fish for costlier ones. This is one thing I personally have seen and I refuse to purchase from certain companies because of this.

Red snapper, mahi mahi, swordfish, and cod are often replaced with Pacific rockfish, yellowtail, or mako shark. Producers also add coloring agents to make fish seem fresher and to add weight during storage.

A 2015 congressional report says these agents “may mask visual cues indicating that such flesh is decomposed and toxic.” Also, "fish high in mercury are substituted for another species,” wrote congressional analyst Harold Upton in a 2015 report.

Parmesan Cheese

Cheese importer Neal Schuman used an independent company to begin testing products that are labeled as parmesan or Romano cheese. He says what he’s found is “appalling.”

He estimates that up to a quarter of all the products sold as parmesan cheese violate the government’s “standard of identity” -- basically, the rules for what can legally be called cheese.

One of the most common ways manufacturers break the law is by adding too much cellulose. Cellulose in food comes from wood fiber, and it is used to keep products from clumping together. “It should be used at 2 to 3 up to maybe 4 percent. And we see it in the marketplace anywhere from 14 to 32 percent,” Schuman says. Other companies make their cheese with vegetable oils instead of milk.

Real cheese should have milk as its first ingredient, followed by salt and maybe enzymes for flavor, Schuman says.

The State of Iowa has put two companies out of business for adding too high a percentage of cellulose in certain foods. One was a bread company and the other was a Romano cheese producer. This was over 25 years ago, but it was welcomed at the time.

Part 2 of 3 Parts

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