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We knew food fraud was a problem from reports issued in this country, with olive oil high on the list of products being deliberately mislabeled or adulterated with bogus ingredients. Now comes word that Europe has its own food fraud problem. Moreover, olive oil tops the European food fraud list - along with fish, organic foods, and milk.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That’s the gist of a draft report issued recently by a European Parliament committee, which also calls for tougher penalties and enforcement. (Click here to see the report.)

The EU report raises alarm bells over “signals indicating that the number of cases is rising and that food fraud is a growing trend reflecting a structural weakness within the food chain.” It adds: “The evidence that criminal organizations are becoming more involved in food fraud is all the more worrisome.”

Recent European fraud cases include: ordinary flour being sold as organic flour; road salt being marketed as food salt; and horsemeat being labeled as beef. According to the report, food fraud comes in different forms. Key ingredients are replaced with cheaper alternatives. The animal species of meats are mislabeled. Ordinary food is peddled as organic. Weights are incorrect.

The report notes that “committing food fraud in the EU is lucrative and that the chances of getting caught are relatively low.” Moreover, Europe lacks concrete laws protecting consumers against buying bogus foods.

“Unlike the USA, the EU has no generally acknowledged definition of food fraud, the current EU legislative framework being largely focused on food safety,” the report states.

Below are the report’s Top 10 products most at risk of food fraud:

  1. Olive oil
  2. Fish
  3. Organic foods
  4. Milk
  5. Grains
  6. Honey and maple syrup
  7. Coffee and tea
  8. Spices (such as saffron and chili powder)
  9. Wine
  10. Certain fruit juices

In its report, the EU panel hails the creation of a “food fraud team” to deal with the matter. It also calls for legislative “controls” that focus on food fraud prevention, along with food safety. The report stresses the need for development of an electronic certification system to cut the likelihood of food fraud. And it calls on government officials to consider requiring food business operators to notify authorities about food fraud cases.

The bottom line from our standpoint: It’s all the more reason to know where your food – including extra virgin olive oil – actually comes from!

California Olive Ranch Master Miller Bob Singletary

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