Food Fraud Hidden in Plain Sight

John G. Keogh wrote . . . . . . . . .

The globalization of the food chain has resulted in increased complexity and diminished transparency and trust into how and where our food is grown, harvested, processed and by whom. Furthermore, recurring incidents of food fraud remind us that some of those involved in the food chain are exploiting this complexity. Today, consumers are at an increased risk of buying lower-quality food than what they paid for, or worse, eating food with unsafe ingredients or undeclared allergens.

Historically, food chain transparency and trust was established between the shopper and the farmer or fishmonger, green grocer, butcher, milkman and baker. Dutch scholar Arthur Mol argued this personal interaction enabled face-to-face transparency, which built trust.

Before modern supermarkets, a local village or town grocery store stocked up to 300 items grown or processed within a 240-kilometre radius. In comparison, our post-modern supermarkets carry an average of 33,000 items, many of which travel 2,400 kilometres or more. The Canadian government is poised to tackle that problem by announcing a “Buy Canadian” food campaign.

While the extent of global food fraud is difficult to quantify, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggests food fraud affects 10 per cent of commercially sold food. Various academic and industry sources suggest that globally, food fraud ranges from US$10 billion to $49 billion. This is likely a conservative range considering estimates of fake Australian meats alone and sold worldwide are as high as US$2.5 billion.

If you add the sales of fake wines and alcohol, adulterated honey and spices, mislabelled fish and false claims of organic products, wild-caught fish or grain-fed meat, the numbers, and risks, increase significantly.

Regulations are in place to protect Canadians. The Safe Food for Canadians Act (known as the SFCR) and the Food and Drug Act work together to protect Canadian consumers from food safety and food fraud risks.

The SFCR states that food businesses must have preventative controls in place as well as product traceability records to ensure imported products meet Canadian laws. But are the regulations being enforced?

The food inspection agency is very active in food fraud prevention and detection. In July 2019, the agency received $24.4 million in new food fraud funding after announcing that 12,800 kilograms of adulterated honey was blocked from entering the Canadian market. Honey adulteration is the process of cutting pure honey with fillers and cheaper sweeteners, including corn syrup.

The agency has several enforcement instruments it can apply to offenders including administrative monetary penalties, licence suspension or cancellation and criminal prosecution.

Canada is recovering from a significant consumer fraud incident where some of the most trusted brands colluded for more than a decade to fix the price of bread in what’s often termed breadgate. This was a breach of the Canadian Competition Act.

Canada was one of the first countries in the world with a formal Competition Act, initiated in 1889. While breadgate’s egregious breach of trust shocked Canadians, consumers are known to have short memories and to quickly forgive.

The protection of insiders acting as whistleblowers in the food industry is critically important to expose both consumer fraud and food fraud. However, most food fraud detection requires the use of advanced high-tech methods.

In 2017, the University of Guelph’s Biodiversity Institute, in partnership with the food inspection agency, received $320,000 in federal funding to develop better genomics and DNA bar-coding tools, including portable devices. DNA bar-coding allows researchers to match animal and plant DNA against a reference database to identify a species.

The partnership has published a number of research papers uncovering food fraud and revealing the mislabelling of fish species in Canadian restaurants and grocery stores, an area of the institute’s research that now spans more than a decade.

In January 2019, the institute published a paper as a followup to a study that showed a 20 per cent mislabelling rate for sausages. The followup indicated 14 per cent of the 100 sausages tested still contained meat DNA that was undeclared on the label. Even more concerning for the public is that many types of food fraud and mislabelling have gone undetected.

Source: The Conversation


Glazed Salmon With Broccoli Rice


1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 head broccoli, florets only, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 pieces skinless salmon fillet (1-1/4 pounds total)
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper


  1. Heat broiler. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and soy sauce. Set aside.
  2. Cook the rice according to the package directions, stirring in the broccoli during the last 3 minutes.
  3. Let the rice and broccoli stand off the heat until the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  4. Meanwhile, place the salmon and onion on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  5. Broil until the salmon is opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes, spooning half the soy sauce glaze over the fish during the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  6. Serve the salmon and onion with the rice and the remaining glaze.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Real Simple

History: SARS Fast Facts

Here’s some background information about SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome. Since 2004, there have been no known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world.

General Information:

SARS is an acute viral respiratory illness brought on by a coronavirus.

Symptoms include fever, cough, severe headache, dizziness and other flu-like complaints.

The illness presents as an atypical pneumonia that does not respond to standard treatments.

There were 8,098 confirmed cases of SARS in 29 countries from November 2002 to July 2003, with 774 deaths.


November 16, 2002 – What will become known as SARS is first reported in Foshan, China.

November 2002-February 2003 – Five people die and more than 300 are reported ill of SARS in Guangdong province, China.

February 15-22, 2003 – Liu Jianlun develops SARS symptoms on a trip from Huang Xingchu in the Guangdong province to visit family in Hong Kong. He is considered patient zero, or the first person to die of the disease. He infects people at his hotel and his family. He is hospitalized and dies, as does one member of his family.

March 15, 2003 – The World Health Organization (WHO) issues an emergency travel advisory about the illness, calling it a “global threat.”

March 27, 2003 – Hong Kong officials have quarantined more than 1,000 people and schools close in Singapore.

March 29, 2003 – Dr. Carlo Urbani, the WHO physician who identified SARS in patient zero, dies from the virus in Bangkok.

April 1, 2003 – An American Airlines flight from Tokyo is quarantined at Mineta San Jose Airport. Three passengers are transported to an area hospital for evaluation of SARS and later released.

April 4, 2003 – By executive order, President George W. Bush has SARS added to the list of communicable diseases for which a person can be quarantined.

April 14, 2003 – Working independently, American and Canadian scientists announce they have sequenced the genome thought to be the cause of SARS.

April 20, 2003 – China cancels a weeklong national holiday celebration as Beijing’s SARS cases rise from 37 to 339 in less than a week. A wholesale vegetable market in Singapore closes and all 2,400 people are quarantined.

April 22, 2003 – The CDC issues a health alert for travelers in Toronto.

April 23, 2003 – Travel warnings and advisories for Shangxi province, Beijing and Toronto have been increased and those for Hong Kong and Guangdong province have been extended.

April 28, 2003 – WHO lists Vietnam as the first nation to contain the SARS outbreak.

April 29, 2003 – WHO announces it will lift its SARS advisory against travel to Toronto.

May 14, 2003 – WHO removes Canada from its list of countries where local transmission of the disease is occurring.

May 23, 2003 – WHO removes its travel warnings against Hong Kong and the province of Guangdong in southern China.

May 28, 2003 – Russia confirms first case of SARS, in a town bordering China.

May 29, 2003 – Canada has 29 active cases of SARS and more than 7,000 under home quarantine.

June 17, 2003 – The first major conference on SARS opens in Malaysia, with more than 1,000 scientists and clinicians in attendance. WHO lifts the travel advisory to Taiwan.

June 24, 2003 – WHO lifts its SARS travel advisory on Beijing.

July 2, 2003 – WHO removes Toronto from its list of areas with recent local transmission of SARS.

July 5, 2003 – WHO announces containment of SARS.

December 17, 2003 – Taiwanese Department of Health reports a case of SARS.

January 5, 2004 – Civet cats are linked through genetic testing to the outbreak of SARS, and the Chinese Health Ministry orders the killing of thousands of the mammals. A man in Guangdong province in China has a confirmed case of SARS

April 23, 2004 – The Chinese Health Ministry reports two confirmed cases of SARS, one in the eastern province of Anhui and the other in the capital, Beijing. Two other possible cases are being investigated.

April 25, 2004 – The Chinese Health Ministry identifies two new cases of SARS in Beijing.

April 29, 2004 – China’s Ministry of Health reports two new confirmed SARS cases in Beijing, bringing the total number of possible or confirmed cases there to nine.

April 30, 2004 – China’s Ministry of Health confirms that a woman who died last week in Anhui province had SARS, the first death related to the illness this year.

May 18, 2004 – The last reported outbreak of SARS is contained in China.

October 5, 2012 – The CDC’s Select Agent Program declares SARS to be a select agent, “a bacterium, virus or toxin that has the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety.”

December 2017 – Chinese researchers locate a population of bats in a Yunnan province cave infected with SARS-related coronaviruses. The newly-discovered strains contain the genetic building blocks of the strain that triggered the SARS outbreak.

Source: CNN

Source: World Health Organization

Report: Health Benefits of Gluten-free Diet are Misperceived

Conor Pope wrote . . . . . . . . .

More than 90 per cent of people who buy gluten-free foods do not have a gluten-related disorder or coeliac disease and mistakenly believe such a diet has health benefits and will help them lose weight, according to a new report from Ireland’s food safety watchdog.

The report from Safefood found that while 23 per cent of those surveyed buy gluten-free foods, 92 per cent of those who do so had no medical reason for choosing gluten free.

Among those polled, there was a misperception of the health benefits of gluten-free products. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said gluten-free products were lower in fat and one in five said such foods were lower in sugar and a healthy way to lose weight.

The research also includes a snapshot survey which looks at the nutritional content of 67 gluten-free snack foods.

These snack foods included nut products and savoury snacks, cereal and baked products, and confectionery.

It found that of all the gluten-free snack products surveyed, 75 per cent were high in fat and 69 per cent were high in sugar, with calorie levels similar to a standard chocolate bar.

“For those people who have a diagnosis of coeliac disease or those with a gluten-related disorder, avoiding gluten in their daily diet is an absolute must,” said Dr Catherine Conlon, director of human health and nutrition with Safefood.

‘Clean labels’

“However, we would have a concern that some of these snack foods have an unhealthy nutritional profile for everyone, whether or not they have a gluten-related disorder. Snacking on foods such as fruit and vegetables, unsalted plain nuts and gluten-free rice cakes and cheese, are healthier options for us all.”

She said 92 per cent of the people buying such products “have no medical reason to avoid gluten in their diet” and stressed that there was “no consistent evidence that a gluten-free diet will improve your health if you aren’t sensitive to gluten”.

According to industry estimates, the gluten-free food market in Ireland was worth €66 million in 2017, an increase of 33 per cent on the previous year.

Many gluten-free food products are promoted by media personalities and sports stars as part of a trend for “clean labels”, including “free-from” food products.

“Similar to recent trends we’ve seen with high-protein foods, gluten-free food is big business with an audience of people willing to purchase these products,” added Dr Conlon. “In the case of gluten-free snacks, you could end up purchasing snack foods with lots of added fat and sugar, which are of no added benefit to your health.”

Source: Irish Times

Will a Face Mask Protect You from Coronavirus?

Steven Reinberg wrote . . . . . . . . .

The dreaded coronavirus in China has many reaching for face masks across the globe.

But while mandatory in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, a face mask is of little use, practically speaking, some experts say.

“A surgical mask might provide some protection, but it’s going to be very modest,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

No definitive studies exist that prove masks prevent infections. Also, masks are designed for different purposes, and only some guard against infectious diseases.

Picking the right type of mask may be key, said one researcher.

“Several studies, including research from my group, show that if worn properly, masks can protect people in the community from respiratory illness, especially [those] in close contact with sick people,” said Dr. Raina MacIntyre. She’s head of biosecurity research at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

MacIntyre’s group did a study where parents of a sick child wore a mask at home. Those who wore the mask at all times were protected, she said.

“When infection is widespread, it may be useful,” she noted.

However, images from China show people wearing face masks that aren’t likely to help, MacIntyre said.

“I recommend disposable masks,” she said. “The cloth masks used commonly in China may not be protective. We did a trial of these, compared to disposable masks, and wearers had a higher risk of infection. This may be because the cloth masks are not washed regularly and may retain moisture and become contaminated.”

So far the coronavirus has spread to 19 countries, with five confirmed cases in the United States. In China, nearly 6,000 have been infected, with 132 dead.

Schaffner noted that this coronavirus spreads the way flu does, yet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend face masks as a way to avoid flu.

“The reason is that CDC requires scientific evidence to show that any intervention they recommend is likely to have value. It turns out that evidence for using masks in the community is scanty at best,” he said.

Also, masks have different uses. Schaffner said a flimsy painter’s mask prevents paint from getting in your mouth or nose, but won’t stop a virus.

Then there are surgical masks. These are designed to keep fluids or germs from the doctor from contaminating the sterile field in the operating room. But viruses can still pass through it to the wearer, Schaffner said.

When doctors are treating patients who have a communicable disease, they wear a type of mask called an N95 respirator. Because this mask is sealed around the mouth and nose, it will block a virus. But using it requires special training, and it makes breathing harder and is uncomfortable to wear, Schaffner said.

So what can you do to guard against the coronavirus? Schaffner said the best precaution to follow is the same as protecting yourself from the flu, namely, avoid being around people who are sick, and wash your hands often.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a spokesman for the Infectious Disease Society of America, said surgical masks and respirators offer protection in the health care setting and do offer some protection to the general public.

“However, most people in the general public don’t wear them properly. They stick their hands under them,” said Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

Adalja added that the risk to the United States right now from this coronavirus is very small. “Buying these masks could have unintended consequences, including shortages, demand spikes and price increases,” he said.

“It’s not really necessary to wear a mask to protect yourself,” Adalja noted. “It’s not something Americans need to do.”

Source: HealthDay

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