9 Basic food products that aren’t what they claim

In a world of nondairy whipped cream, chocolate made from vegetable oil and imitation blueberries made from cellulose gum and dye, is it even possible to buy the food sold on the box?

1. Olive oil
In an ongoing fraud dating back centuries, the extra-virgin olive oil in your pantry is almost never extra virgin and may only have a passing relationship with olives. According to some studies, more than two-thirds of common olive oil are fraudulent; it has even been speculated that no American has ever had 100 percent pure extra-virgin olive oil. They are spoiled, made from unsuitable olives or are outright doctored with various oils. A recent olive oil review found some samples so defective it classified them as lamp oil.

2. Maple syrup
It is alarming how little maple syrup is actually in our maple syrup. Companies have been reducing the high cost of maple syrup as far back 1887 by using artificial sweeteners. They’ve been selling increasingly synthetic sugar goop ever since. This strategy has proved so successful that the closest some of our best-selling syrups have been to a tree is the picture on the label of the plastic bottle they come in.

3. Honey
Unsurprisingly, honey suffers a similar fate as maple syrup — the good stuff being replaced by artificial sweeteners, additives and preservatives. After the largest food fraud in U.S. history, people have been paying closer attention to their honey, ever vigilant for the cheap, impure, sometimes unsafe Chinese honey that slips by U.S. customs with unsettling ease. Brands labeled as “pure honey” only mean anything in Florida (the only state with laws about it). The honey bear lies, people!

4. Spices
Spices are the most common way we’re duped and even put in danger. It’s gotten so bad that even salt is sold with talc. Apparently nothing is sacred.

Cinnamon is most likely its less flavorful cousin, cassia.
Black pepper has been known to contain ground-up twigs and buckwheat flour.
Oregano is mixed with sumac, savory or thyme.
Chinese star anise is sometimes substituted with its poisonous cousin, Japanese star anise.
Vanilla extract may actually be cut with ethyl vanillin, which loses its flavor in heat.
Saffron, the most expensive of all spices, is most likely only 10 percent actual saffron.
Turmeric is commonly bolstered with rice flour, starches and occasionally lead and may be dyed with a Sudan dye, “metanil yellow,” which causes damage to the nervous system.
Chili powder and paprika can both be dyed with Sudan dye — a known carcinogen.
Cumin and coriander powder can be mixed with sawdust.
Cayenne powder may also have sawdust but could be mixed with red oxide of lead.
5. Coffee
To meet the enormous demand for coffee, suppliers use a tried-and-true method from the Great Depression to cut costs. They adulterate their high-priced coffee with any number of filler ingredients: maize, soybeans, ground sweet potatoes, roasted beans and chicory root. The best part of waking up is finding soybeans in my cup.

6. Milk
Think that’s cow’s milk you’re drinking? It may very well be some mixture of cow, sheep, goat, buffalo and antelope. It may even be cut with oil, urea, detergent and caustic soda.

7. Orange juice
Your morning OJ may contain high-fructose corn syrup, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, paprika extract and beet sugar. Companies also formulate chemical “flavor packs” to make their juice taste more like, well, juice.

8. Apple juice
You may expect high-fructose corn syrup (and you’d be right), but what about fig juice, pear juice, raisin sweetener and malic acid? Companies even sell phony apple juice to babies.

9. Seafood
Even though misbranding food for profit is illegal, there can still be considerable leeway — your tuna can be any of 14 different species of fish — and misidentification and deliberate misrepresentation is rampant. In a recent study by Oceana, a whopping 87 percent of sushi restaurants were caught misrepresenting the fish they serve, which compares to grocery stores, where 1 out of 3 seafood items sold were misidentified.

Red snapper is substituted with numerous other fish varieties almost 9 out of 10 times, sometimes with fish that should be avoided by pregnant women and children due to high mercury levels.
Rock shrimp, prized for their lobster-like flavor, are frequently found to be common shrimp species instead when tested.
White tuna is often swapped with escolar, a snake mackerel that can cause acute gastrointestinal issues.
Wild Alaskan salmon is cleaner and healthier than farmed salmon, which is literally swimming in contaminants and pesticides. Too bad you’re probably not getting it.

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