I’ve been known to purchase a fake Louis Vuitton handbag out of the trunk of a rusty old pick up truck for $39.99. I know its fake because the real thing would set me back about $500.
Good thing that doesn’t happen with groceries, right? Well, let me introduce you to the sneaky world of counterfeit food. It never occurred to me that cheap food is probably a forgery as well.
I was grocery shopping with a friend the other day. As we worked our way through the produce section, I commented that I was out of garlic – an ingredient I put in practically everything that comes out of my kitchen.
He pointed out a bin of fresh garlic that was right under my nose, but I hastily shook my head…I wanted the kind that comes in a bottle, already chopped up and good to go. Much more economical, I thought. He turned up his nose and defiantly picked up a handful of garlic heads.
“Those aren’t really garlic cloves, you know,” he said under his breath pointing to my bottled variety.
“What? It says so right here on the label,” I retorted. “What is it then, chopped daylily bulbs?”
I tried to read the ingredients, but they were written in minus 16 point type – I couldn’t have read it with a telescope! But he’d made his point, and I was beginning to be a little distrustful of the bottled variety of “garlic.”
Heck, half the time I can’t get the stupid jar open and have to walk outside in hopes of finding a muscle bound man walking by. In the same amount of time it takes me to wrench the lid off, I could have smashed and minced 40 cloves of garlic.
I put back the bottle and bought a few heads of “real” garlic, which will probably die in the vegetable drawer before I get to use them.
Low and behold, “Good morning America” did a segment today on “Fake Food.” Apparently the practice of counterfeiting food has become more common than I realized.
As the economy continues to head South, manufacturers are diluting their products to make them stretch. Honey is often cut with the less healthy corn syrup, and no one’s the wiser. Olive oil is diluted with less healthy soybean oil. Farm raised salmon is fed red dye pellets to get the red color of the more healthy wild caught fish.
Some of the worst offenders of counterfeiting are those off-brands sold in dollar stores and discount houses, reported Robin Roberts. If the price is significantly different than name brands, buyer beware, she said.
Oh Lord, I’m a sucker for deeply discounted products. I have off-brand hot sauce, worchestershire sauce, and vinegars. I even purchased a jar of “Panned Peanut Butter” that looked just like the Peter Pan brand. It wasn’t until I got it home that I discovered the subterfuge. Betcha money I got some salmonella to go along with it.
Moving up the deceit scale, what we call “balsamic vinegar” may not be that at all. If a bottle of balsamic vinegar costs less than $100, it’s probably not the real thing, writes one food editor. How’s that again? The last bottle I bought was $2.99. He claims authentic balsamic vinegar is aged for at least 12 years in a succession of wooden casks. Doubt that’s going for $2.99.
No wonder I’m not crazy about balsamic vinegar. I’ve probably never had it!
What’s a shopper to do? I guess I’ll have to spring for the pricier “name brands” and hope it’s what I think it is.