Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted

Why You Don't Know What You're Eating &
What You Can Do About It

WHAT IS REAL FOOD? WHAT IS FAKE FOOD?

 

What Is Real Food?

 

Real Food is just what it sounds like – when you buy it or eat it, you get exactly what you think you are getting. It’s the Real Thing – the food it says it is.

 

Consider the Maine lobster: buy it or order it whole and you are never going to be let down. You can look at it and tell it is a lobster, and a North Atlantic lobster rather than a less desirable clawless warm water version. You can expect it to be reliably delicious. But what if you order lobster bisque? Or lobster ravioli? Or lobster roll or lobster salad?  Recent studies have shown that many restaurants, including the biggest national seafood chains, cut the lobster with cheaper seafood – or never use any lobster at all. Lobster is a Real Food that is often faked.

 

Some Real Foods are less obvious than lobster. There are many foods associated with one specific place, where that food has been made under strict legal supervision and held to high standards of quality and purity, often for hundreds of years. Sweet onions from Vidalia, Georgia. Maple syrup from Vermont. Alaska Salmon. Champagne is the most obvious example. The rules and quality control for real Champagne, from France’s Champagne region, are so strict and carefully enforced that there is literally no such thing as bad Champagne. The way it is produced assures consumers of an exceptional product every time. But in the U.S. it is legal to make wine and label it CHAMPAGNE, and it doesn’t have to be good - or even sparkling. In fact, it is usually of very poor quality.

 

There are lots of different kinds of Real Food, but the things they have in common is that they are usually delicious, they are usually pure, and they are almost always healthier and better for you than their Fake versions.

 

What Is Fake Food?

 

Some Fake Food is really awful, like when you go to buy tea and get ground up weeds instead, or order tuna in a sushi restaurant and get escolar, a fish so likely to cause illness it is banned in other countries and nicknamed the “Ex-Lax fish.” This is much more common than you would think: studies have shown that consumers ordering white tuna in sushi restaurants get an inferior substitute 94% of the time.

 

Other Fake Foods are more subtle, taking advantage of lax labeling laws to legally trick consumers. There was a recent scandal that got a lot of media attention when it was discovered that domestic parmesan cheese, always a pale imitation of the Real thing from Italy, contained wood pulp instead of cheese. One national brand was more than 20% wood pulp. But what these stories overlooked was the fact that, unlike in Italy, it is perfectly legal for our “cheese” to be made of wood instead of milk. Consumers were outraged, and they should be, but there is nothing new about buying American Parmesan cheese and getting wood, because it is Fake across the board – and so are many other popular cheeses. Kobe beef is a great Fake Food example: because Japanese producers of Real Kobe were not able to trademark it here, it is legal for menus to call anything Kobe beef and they do –  there are just eight restaurants in the entire country serving the Real thing.

  • The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated that 10% of all commercially available food in this country is subject to adulteration. Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative estimated the problem at $50 Billion - with a B - annually. The fact that MSU has a Food Fraud Initiative indicates how big the problem is, and England set up what’s been called a “Food CSI,” Italy launched a “Food FBI,” while President Obama called for a National Task Force just to combat Seafood Fraud.

  • I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a bottle of olive oil in their kitchen. Most studies estimate that 85% of the extra virgin olive oil in this country is fake, and that is a conservative estimate. Staples like milk, coffee, juice and honey always make the Top 10 lists of Fake Food. And eating out in restaurants is worse than retail shopping.

  • Actually, while many inexpensive restaurants regularly use Fake Food ingredients, fancier restaurants are more likely to outright lie and deceive. One recent high profile study of “Farm to Table” restaurants in Florida concluded that every one of them was at fault. Most consumers do not realize that restaurants are largely exempt from the regulations covering food claims on labels and at retail.

  • The FDA is not ignoring the problem - they have known about many of the Fake Food issues affecting our country for decades, and in many cases, have intentionally decided not to bother taking any action because they feel their budget can be spent better elsewhere. They also simply choose to not do their job: for example, they are mandated by Congress and required by law to supervise and inspect our imported seafood supply and year after year they break the law and fail to do even the bare minimum of their job. The USDA has chosen to define – or refuse to define – labelling terms in such a manner that literally every animal raised in this country is “natural,” no matter how many drugs or animal byproducts it ate, and any beef can be called “grass fed” regardless of what it ate. Those are just two of many examples.

  • Yes and no. You are right that China has substandard and often criminal food production standards. You are wrong in thinking you are avoiding this. The way our food labeling laws work, processed foods, which means most supermarket foods, do not show the origin of ingredients, just where the food was assembled. Even foods labelled made in the USA can be made from Chinese products.  Also, many foods from China and other suspect countries are shipped through intermediary ports and relabeled. So while Chinese honey is completely banned in this country, because it has been found to contain dangerous drugs, it still arrives and is sold in supermarkets in large quantities. It’s the same for seafood and many other products.

  • Actually, organic standards for many foods have improved a lot in recent years, and you can certainly put more faith in the label. On the other hand, there are entire categories – like seafood – that are not covered. Both the FDA and USDA take the positon that when terms are undefined, producers and retailers can use them almost anyway they want. So while there is no such thing as organic seafood in this country, there is plenty of seafood labelled organic for sale.

  • There are solutions to almost every problem, and at the end of every chapter in my book Real Food, Fake Food, I give buying tips. There are third parties that audit and certify where seafood comes from, and you should look for those on the label. Some retailers do better jobs at different products, and I list those. I explain easy ways to avoid fake cheese, fake oil and fake wines, all big areas of concern. I give tips for eating out. There’s a lot more info in there.

Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted
  • The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated that 10% of all commercially available food in this country is subject to adulteration. Michigan State University’s Food Fraud Initiative estimated the problem at $50 Billion - with a B - annually. The fact that MSU has a Food Fraud Initiative indicates how big the problem is, and England set up what’s been called a “Food CSI,” Italy launched a “Food FBI,” while President Obama called for a National Task Force just to combat Seafood Fraud.

  • I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a bottle of olive oil in their kitchen. Most studies estimate that 85% of the extra virgin olive oil in this country is fake, and that is a conservative estimate. Staples like milk, coffee, juice and honey always make the Top 10 lists of Fake Food. And eating out in restaurants is worse than retail shopping.

  • Actually, while, many inexpensive restaurants regularly use Fake Food ingredients, fancier restaurants are more likely to outright lie and deceive. One recent high profile study of “Farm to Table” restaurants in Florida concluded that every one of them was at fault. Most consumers do not realize that restaurants are largely exempt from the regulations covering food claims on labels and at retail.

  • The FDA is not ignoring the problem - they have known about many of the Fake Food issues affecting our country for decades, and in many cases, have intentionally decided not to bother taking any action because they feel their budget can be spent better elsewhere. They also simply choose to not do their job: for example, they are mandated by Congress and required by law to supervise and inspect our imported seafood supply and year after year they break the law and fail to do even the bare minimum of their job. The USDA has chosen to define – or refuse to define – labelling terms in such a manner that literally every animal raised in this country is “natural,” no matter how many drugs or animal byproducts it ate, and any beef can be called “grass fed” regardless of what it ate. Those are just two of many examples.

  • Yes and no. You are right that China has substandard and often criminal food production standards. You are wrong in thinking you are avoiding this. The way our food labeling laws work, processed foods, which means most supermarket foods, do not show the origin of ingredients, just where the food was assembled. Even foods labelled made in the USA can be made from Chinese products.  Also, many foods from China and other suspect countries are shipped through intermediary ports and relabeled. So while Chinese honey is completely banned in this country, because it has been found to contain dangerous drugs, it still arrives and is sold in supermarkets in large quantities. It’s the same for seafood and many other products.

  • Actually, organic standards for many foods have improved a lot in recent years, and you can certainly put more faith in the label. On the other hand, there are entire categories – like seafood – that are not covered. Both the FDA and USDA take the positon that when terms are undefined, producers and retailers can use them almost anyway they want. So while there is no such thing as organic seafood in this country, there is plenty of seafood labelled organic for sale.

  • There are solutions to almost every problem, and at the end of every chapter in my book Real Food, Fake Food, I give buying tips. There are third parties that audit and certify where seafood comes from, and you should look for those on the label. Some retailers do better jobs at different products, and I list those. I explain easy ways to avoid fake cheese, fake oil and fake wines, all big areas of concern. I give tips for eating out. There’s a lot more info in there.

Real Food Fake Food Larry Olmsted