Dr Oz: Food Counterfeiting
You may be surprised to learn that the foods you buy when you shop are not always what they seem. Could you be picking up fake food or counterfeit food without even realizing it? Dr Oz asked some experts to help explain why we need to pay attention when buying shrimp, turmeric, and other foods.
Dr Oz: What is Food Fraud?
Caroline Smith DeWall is director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and she explained what Food Fraud is for Dr Oz’s audience. Examples include when you order one type of fish from a restaurant menu and are served something else, or when a manufacturer adds an ingredient to a product to increase its weight or help it pass a scientific test.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is tasked with ensuring food safety for about 80% of foods imported by the United States. But according to Caroline, the FDA does not have the manpower to keep up with the workload, and they are actually only inspecting less than 2% of the foods we are importing.
Dr Oz: Counterfeit Shrimp?
Dr Oz focused on some foods he knows people might seek out when trying to eat healthy. First on his list was Shrimp. You might see it labeled as “wild” in the supermarket, but is that really true? Oceana senior scientist Dr Kimberly Warner told Dr Oz that shrimp, America’s most popular seafood, is not always coming from the places you might think.
Oceana tested samples of shrimp from grocery stores and restaurants across the country. The results showed that in nearly one third of cases, food fraud was taking place. One common deception is that you are buying wild shrimp, when it fact it may be imported shrimp.
You could also be buying a different species than you think you are getting, or you could find a variety of shrimp species inside the same frozen package. But how dirty are shrimp really? The organization Food & Water Watch found that shrimp imports accounted for a quarter to a third of all rejected seafood imports.
Dr Oz: Imported Shrimp Coated in Cleaning Chemicals
How would you know whether you are getting scammed on shrimp? Dr Oz asked an audience member to choose which shrimp was wild from two samples he presented. She chose wrong, and Dr Warner called for more consistent labeling from the time seafood is caught to the time it’s cooked.
Dr Oz also noted that farmed shrimp coming into the U.S. from other countries is often high in antibiotics or coated in chemicals that are used for cleaning. That pink color is supposed to indicate a natural antioxidant, but it could also be a fake coloring added to the product!
What can you do to shop smarter? Don’t be shy about asking questions when you are buying seafood, so you can learn as much about what you are getting as possible.
Dr Oz: Greek Yogurt Fraud
Greek Yogurt is a hot health food, but Caroline Smith DeWall told Dr Oz that counterfeit yogurt is a growing problem. Authentic Greek Yogurt is filtered so it becomes thick like custard. But so-called “Greek-Style Yogurt” could be bulked up using starch or tapioca instead.
Dr Oz often recommends Greek Yogurt because it is rich in protein and usually low in sugar. But the FDA has not kept up with its own definitions and standards for yogurt, so in the meantime manufacturers seem to be having a field day.
Milk and Bacterial Cultures are the two essential ingredients in Greek Yogurt. If you look at the label and see a long list of additional ingredients, what you are probably looking at is Greek-Style Yogurt, which does not necessarily have the same health benefits.
Dr Oz: Turmeric Contains Lead?
Dr Oz also spoke about Turmeric, a spice often recommended by him and his guests. Since it is produced in other countries, it has to be imported into the U.S., but it’s hard to know what happened to it before it got to America.
Imported spices have tested high for Salmonella and even insect parts. Turmeric specifically has been known to contain amounts of lead, which can cause symptoms like abdominal pain and memory loss.
To avoid this potential risk, buy Turmeric from a trusted source. It should always be bright yellow. As an alternative, try buying it in its root form and grinding it fresh at home.
Dr Oz: U.S. Food Fraud
What did the FDA have to say about Food Fraud? Dr Oz shared a portion of their statement about this topic.
“Food sold in the U.S. is required to be safe, sanitary, and properly labeled…. Combating food fraud is the responsibility of both industry and regulatory authorities.”
Dr Oz’s advice was not to reward con artists by purchasing fake food from them.