September 2, 2015

Processed Foods, 100% or Adulterated? - Part 3

Fruit Juices

These may be watered down or diluted with a cheaper type of juice, such as pear or grape. Some may only contain water, dye, and sugars, but fruit will still be listed as an ingredient on the label.

Pear is often used in apple juice. Pricey pomegranate juice frequently includes blends of apple and grape juice, despite being about five times more expensive than grape juice.

The above is done too often and even the local grocery stores have sent product back that was diluted more than it should have been.

Issues Remain This is an understatement when it comes to the regulations for the FDA to enforce. The FDA is charged with monitoring food adulteration under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

To supplement that law, the agency has also published regulations about the specific type of information that must be on a product’s label, McSeveney says. “The FD&C Act and supporting regulations are there, in part, to help ensure consumers are in fact receiving the product they believe they are paying for.”

But, the congressional report found it might not be possible for the agency to prosecute every food adulteration incident because of other responsibilities, limited resources, and lack of evidence.

“Their [FDA] focus is on safety -- so they spend most of the time on predicting these incidents before it becomes a major health risk,” says John Larkin, PhD, research director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, which is being implemented, provides the FDA with “new inspection and enforcement tools” to help ensure food companies are “carrying out their responsibilities,” McSeveney says. It will also allow the FDA to establish a program where the food industry will reimburse the agency for some inspection and enforcement activities.

Larkin and Michigan State University food expert John Spink, PhD, say industry is taking a more active role in policing itself. Spink is director of the Food Fraud Initiative at Michigan State. He also helped create standards for food safety set by the Global Food Safety Initiative. It is a group of non-government food companies working to create universal food safety standards.

“Companies are more integrated now and are working more with their suppliers, so they are more aware about the types of fraud that occur,” Spink says. “There’s a process in place, and what gets measured gets better. Now people are looking at food fraud, so there is more information and more research for prevention.”

Grocery Manufacturers Association member companies have programs and procedures, including testing, to help ensure safe and high-quality products, Kennedy says. Most manufacturers continuously monitor and review these.

Cheese importer Schuman says it is also an issue of transparency.

Karen Everstine, PhD, MPH, of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, offers these tips to help you avoid food fraud:

  1. Buy products locally if you can, such as honey. Talk to the producer.
  2. Buy foods in a minimally processed form, such as whole spices vs. ground.
  3. Be wary of prices that appear too good to be true, such as low-priced extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Buy from reputable brands and sources, because they want to maintain their reputation.

Part 3 of 3 Parts

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