There are many advantages to a global marketplace, but one of the pitfalls is that not all countries have the same food supply regulations. Experts say that makes the following five products vulnerable to contamination.
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It has been praised for its health benefits, but beware of pomegranate juice that’s been diluted with other juices, water, acids or sugars.
“The safety of the other juices — or the other products, if it’s chemical or sugar or coloring — has not been reviewed by anyone in the food supply chain and answers are unknown to the consumers,” says Markus Lipp, director of food standards for the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention.
Question juices that seem too low in price, and stick with the better-known brands.
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Black pepper can easily add flavor to just about any dish, but it’s also easily tainted. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention has found cheap fillers in ground pepper, including plant stems and buckwheat flour. Since whole foods are easier to identify, opt for whole kernel black pepper and try to grind it yourself.
Another food that is commonly tampered with is honey. Ingredients like artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup and water are the usual suspects. Plus, manufactures may purposely mislabel its country of origin.
“Certain countries have been banned from importing honey due to a persistent problem in food safety,” Lipp says.
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Consider this before taking another sip of your cup of Joe: ground coffee can be cut with ingredients like corn, seeds, barley and even twigs! This is more common in products made outside the U.S., but if it’s listed on the label, it’s not considered food adulteration. Also check the label for ground chicory root — another filler, especially in instant coffee. Shop well-known brands and when in doubt, buy whole coffee beans and grind them yourself.
Finally, extra virgin olive oil is a pricey staple in most pantries. A sign that it may be contaminated is if the price is too low — and it may pose a real threat to your health, especially for those with nut allergies. “Extra virgin olive oil is diluted or replaced by either lower-grade olive oils or peanut oil or by other plant oils,” Lipp says. To lower the cost, some products have been found to contain hazelnut oil and, more commonly, lower grade olive oils. Even if you think you're just buying extra virgin olive oil, check the label to be sure, especially if the price looks too good to be true.
Know of any other potentially fraudulent foods? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.