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Food Scams - Products to Avoid

Labels can tell you more than nutritional content - they can also mean the difference between sickness and health.
Food Scams - Products to Avoid
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When you think of the word “scam,” you don’t typically associate the word with food, but there are actually several scams out there having to do with one of our basic needs for survival.  It sucks, but it’s the truth.

Huff Po made a list of some of eight different kinds of foods that have been the target of scams.  Here are some of three of the more popular items from their list.  If they’re in your fridge right now, double-check them, and if you’re due for a refill, keep these tips in mind before you head out.


Apparently, what you see is not always what you get when you’re in the market for fish.  According to Consumer Reports, the label can say you’re buying one kind of fish when you’re actually buying another - and you’re probably not buying “up” either.  The Associate Director for the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, Amy Kircher, explained that farmed fish is often labeled as their more expensive and sought-after wild cousins.  So you may think you are buying the healthier option, when reality is further from the truth.

Kircher also noted that sometimes the scam goes even further than just the labeling.  For instance, you might think you’re buying scallops, but really they are just punched out circles from a fillet of whitefish.

When it comes to fish, per se, a scam can be more than just a waste of money - it can also be dangerous, particularly in terms of mercury content, which can be especially problematic for children and pregnant women. 

So what do you buy?  Experts suggest buying whole fish whenever possible, as that is more likely to be the real deal.


Don’t throw out your Heines and Bud Lights just yet - it’s typically wine and spirits that pop up on this list - particularly the rarer brands.  However, Senior Manager for Brand Protection at OpSec Security, Tara Steketee, warns that you should always pay attention to the logos on the bottles before you purchase, as well as to the bottles themselves.  Like fish, alcohol is another case wherein the fake product can be deadly, a hazard more present in spirits.  Recently in the U.K., a nightclub was discovered to be selling counterfeit Smirnoff Vodka which contained an industrial alcohol that is used to make antifreeze.  Fake wine, on the other hand, is usually just a cheaper vintage than what you think you are buying, so while it’s junk quality, it probably won’t kill you.

Baby Formula

When it comes to issues with food, contaminated or fraudulent baby food and formula really pisses us off.  The biggest problem when it comes to formula is that the sell-by codes will often be moved back so that the retailer can continue to sell it, even though it is past the window in which it should be sold.  Another problem lies in “adulterated milk” (regular milk that has been mixed with “adulterants” to increase the milk’s shelf life), which can also be found in some formulas. 

Steketee suggests here that parents buy from a major retailer, as opposed to smaller sellers like flea markets.  Just like in the case of alcohol, pay attention to the packaging.  If the formula’s expiration date is blurred out or looks, in any way, like it has been tampered with, avoid it at all costs.

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