Identifying The 15 Most Common Counterfeit Foods

“Deception may give us what we want in the present, but it will always take it away in the end.”  –Rachel Hawthorne 

When someone mentions the term counterfeit, you might first think about money, shoes, or purses. But what about food? Fake food is more common than you may realize, and it could be harmful to your health. It is highly recommended that you carefully read labels to ensure you are purchasing pure, organic ingredients. To help you avoid food fraud, Energy Matters, LLC. has compiled a list of the 15 most common counterfeit foods. You may be surprised to find it includes several foods which are considered wholesome and nutritious—when they are real.

1. Olive Oil
One study found that nearly 70% of the extra-virgin olive oils tested were diluted with soy or vegetable oil; some contained no olive oil at all.

2. Coffee
Ground coffee can contain anything from sticks, twigs, and coffee husks to roasted corn or parchment paper. Buy whole coffee and grind the beans yourself to protect your health.

3. Balsamic Vinegar
Authentic balsamic vinegar is aged for years. To speed things up, counterfeit balsamic vinegars are diluted with other ingredients and then mixed with sugar or coloring to mask the difference.

4. Fish
Cheap fish is often passed off as pricier varieties. For example, the undesirable threadfin slickhead is sometimes sold as Alaskan cod. Many of these secret replacements are more oily and cause intestinal discomforts.

5. Scallops
A new ploy is to use cookie cutters to create slices of shark or skate that mimic fresh scallops. Look closely next time you purchase unshelled scallops.

6. Caviar
Low-grade domestic caviar is often passed off as fancy imports simply by upgrading the packaging. Be wary of the source.

Beautycounter7. Meat
Imported ground beef can contain anything from horse to donkey or even fox. Purchase domestic meat only, preferably from a trusted local butcher.

8. Honey
Honey is the third most commonly fake food (Real Food, Fake Food; Larry Olmsted). Fraudsters swap or dilute the golden goodness with corn syrup. Choose local, small-batch honey when you can, and watch the ingredient list. Real honey doesn’t require added sweeteners.

9. Saffron
Pure saffron can cost more than $100 an ounce. Scammers have taken to replacing saffron with dyed dehydrated onion.

10. Vanilla
Authentic vanilla extract is made with natural vanillin from real vanilla beans, while imitation vanilla extract is made with synthesized vanillin. Sometimes this fake version is passed off as the real thing.

11. Cinnamon
Light, aromatic Ceylon is commonly replaced with the more abrasive Cassia bark (Healthline, 2016). It is difficult to tell the difference once ground, so read labels. Real Ceylon cinnamon shouldn’t have other ingredients or fillers.

12. Black Pepper
Our recent blog on the health benefits of black pepper suggested purchasing pure, organic peppercorns and grinding them yourself. Ground black pepper can include fillers like stems, juniper, or dyed papaya seeds.

13. Powdered Milk
Imported powdered milk and infant formula have been known to make people deathly sick. Labs have found powdered milk tainted with melamine, hydrogen peroxide, and even detergent flakes.

14. Juice
Dark-colored juices—like grape or pomegranate—are especially prone to fraud. Some contain no actual fruit juice at all! Be sure to read labels for 100% pure juice with no fillers.

Common Counterfeit Foods- Cinnamon15. Wine
Experts estimate that approximately 5% of all wines are fake. A common trick is to rebottle cheap wine under a more distinguished label. Tip: Check for misspellings on the packaging.

Protect your wallet and your health by staying mindful of your choices next time you shop. When in doubt, do some research to determine which brands you can really trust.

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*This blog contains Amazon affiliate links. The owner of this site may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase an item we have recommended.



What To Remember:

Fake food is more common than you may realize.
Counterfeiters swap labels or use lower quality ingredients to boost profits.
They mask the difference with additives that could harm your health.
Read labels carefully and do research when in doubt.



Taylor, Kate. (August, 2018). These popular American foods aren't always what you think they are.

How to Tell Natural Spices From Fakes.

Martinelli, Katherine. (July, 2018). 10 Foods You're Eating That Are Probably Fake.


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