More food fraud- and this one you’ll never spot
Who could forget the horsemeat scandal that saw so many of us being unwitting consumers of horses, and not to mention the subsequent Which!!! Investigation that found a worrying number (40%) of lamb curries were actually not lamb at all. Ok in that instance they were mostly beef or chicken, but there was a principle at steak stake. Now, the lovely investigators at Which!!! Have found another food that seems to be commonly not actually what it sayd on the outside- and its something you’d never be able to tell by yourself, and have quite possibly been consuming the substitute for years. The kitchen culprit? Oregano.
An “exclusive cutting-edge food fraud study” for Which!!! found that 25% of 78 samples of dried oregano contained ingredients other than oregano. Fortunately these other ingredients weren’t Chinese tea, or toenails or anything else actually harmful, but in most cases were olive and myrtle leaves, but they were found to make up between 30% and 70% of the product. So in some cases, less than a third of your oregano jar is actually proper oregano. And don’t think this is just dodgy spice pack bought from Spices R Us online- the investigation used oregano samples bought from a range of shops in the UK and Ireland and from online retailers.
But how could they tell what was oregano and what was other milled leaves? The simple answer is you can’t, or at least you can’t, Which!!! could by using impressive-sounding mass spectrometry which identifies compounds by their atomic composition. The analysis was conducted by Professor Elliott, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security, who was the author of the independent review into food crime commissioned by the government in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.
Professor Elliott said: “Clearly we have identified a major problem and it may well reflect issues with other herbs and spices that enter the British Isles through complex supply chains. Much better controls are needed to protect the consumer from purchasing heavily contaminated products.”
Which!!! are, of course, adding this to their 'Food Fraud' dossier, and will be passing these latest results to the Food Standards Agency. Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd, said: 'It's impossible for any shopper to tell, without the help of scientists, what herbs they're actually buying. Retailers, producers and enforcement officers must step up checks to stamp out food fraud.'