Food Fraud: 11 surprising cases hard to believe

Food Fraud

Perhaps a stroke of luck and good business etiquette handed a Chinese business the worst experience it could recall as it had to watch dozens of people die with several hundred severely ill from its food, simply because a lethal rat poison was secretly spiked in its food by a jealous competitor.

In recent years, there has been increased swelling in food fraud globally identified in forms like "Adulteration, Tampering Overrun, Theft, Diversion, Simulation, and Counterfeit" according to John Spink and Douglas Moyer Authors of the MSU study.

Whilst authorities from around the globe are fully committed to fighting against the scourge with developing technologies, collaborations and even promotion of transparent information sharing,

It's sad to understand these fraudsters expanding from individuals all the way to full established organisations understand these strategies and are fast to update their technologies to dodge inspections and fraudulently interfere with food products at any point along the farm-to-table supply chain.

In an attempt to understand the overwhelming situation of food fraud globally, I have been able to compile a revealing list of shocking food fraud cases rumored and those confirmed to have happened.

Food Fraud Cases

Coca-Cola Scandals

Coca-Cola Food Fraud

The attempt by Coca-Cola to gain recognition as one of world’s most valuable brand as well as king of beverage industry was not without some serious controversies.

One serious challenge the century old has had to face since birth was serious food fraud allegations.
And here are some of them.

---In the early 90s, Coca-Cola was believed to be a “killer” brain tonic mainly due to its caffeine content, and that drinking cola led to wild parties, Sexual indiscretions by coeds and induced boys to masturbatory wakefulness.

Accusants insisted that Coca-Cola’s product was adulterated and misbranded.

---In the early 2000s, Coca-Cola was under the gun from explosive allegations suggesting that its recipe contained key materials “extracts from pig intestines as well as alcohol “ making it unsuitable for Vegetarians, Muslims and Jews.

Scandalmongers insisted that the company pushed through to market by misbranding despite being aware.

There were several other allegations suggesting 

  • That Coca-Cola contained cochineal;a bug dye. 
  • That Coca-Cola contained very harsh acids that could coax worms out of fresh pork, and dissolve teethes with continued use.
  • That Coca-Cola was Anti-Islamic and intentionally marketed to the Muslim community to intimidate them and interfere with their religious practices.
  • That Coca-Cola contained cocaine.
  • That Coca-Cola was cancer causing and thus misbranded and promoted by several secrete authorities to reduce global population.
All allegations were expressing the fact that; “Had people known the Coca-Cola they consumed was intentionally mislabelled or aimed for purpose other than it was marketed for, they might not have bought it. 

Thus pointing fingers at Coca-Cola for misbranding and adulteration. 

--- Coke came under fire again in 2015 after it was reported that the company made a huge investment to promote exercise rather than cutting back on calories as the way to maintaining a healthy weight. 

A message which was misleading according to expert, and an act deemed fraudulent since it will deflect criticisms about the role the company played in the spread of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Plastic Fish

Even though there is no strong evidence to conclude "the substitution and sale of regular fish with plastic fish" as a widespread problem, rumours persist on social media and continue to cause stir amongst Africans and elsewhere.

In one case, a man claimed to have bought from an African shop in London a plastic fake fish, supporting his claim with a viral video where he explained how the fish felt like plastic foam and water oozing out of it as though it was a sponge. He concluded the video expressing his concerned disappointment and how life threatening it could have been should he have consumed the fake fish.

Another claim happened in Africa where a Nigerian man took to his twitter account to rant about the fake plastic fish he bought from a mall and advised people to always buy from local markets. He supported his claim with pictures of the supposed plastic fish adding that he cooked it for hours but it refused to get done.

In another disturbing video, a Nigeria woman claimed to have bought a plastic scubion fish from a Chinese supermarket in Nigeria where in an attempt to prove it was a plastic fish, she de-skinned the fish and set the skin on fire claiming it burnt and smelt like rubber.

Several other versions of the so called “plastic fish” also surfaced in Ghana and some African countries.

Chinese plastic rice | Chinese plastic eggs | Artificial Cabbage

As early as 2011, the Asian market was hit hard by claims circulating on social media asserting that it was manufacturing plastic rice, eggs and wax cabbages and selling them in substitute of the real deal for consumption by people worldwide, unaware the food items were in fact lab made.

More panic was caused when evidences and videos surfaced on different platforms purportedly depicting the shady manufacturing of the so called fake rice, eggs and cabbage, and even more foodstuffs.

Since then, several blogs have been inspired to create contents geared towards the scam, with some even showing “how to identify plastic stuffs from the real deal”.

Restaurants Serving Human Flesh

restaurant fraud
Photo credit: its me neosiam - pexels.com 

For years, rumours that some restaurants were illegally serving human meat as regular beef have circulated online.

The most notable:
When a hotel restaurant in South Africa was believed to have been in possession of a fresh human head at the time it was raided by police officers who sourced their information from suspicious local residents claiming that the restaurant was serving customers human meat.

Several other cases in Malta, Nairobi, Kenya, port of Spain, and Nigeria to mention a few have surfaced earlier or before the incident in South Africa. 

Cooking with urine | Bathing water | and other body filth

Many local restaurants, eateries and other public food places around the world have been targets for rumours of associated witchcraft practices involving cooking with body filths as directed by their so called “guardians” to obtain restaurant fame and loyal customers.

There were rumoured cases mostly circulated in audio and written form, warning about the fraudulent use of body filth by some public eating places as a special ingredient in the food they served for customers as a desperate move for fame and attracting loyal customers.  

Other versions was that, some restaurants and other public eating places conducted the ill act as a way to intimidate a specific group of people secretly.

European Horse Meat Scandal

The European Horse Meat scandal was one popular food fraud cases during its time. 

It was one in which, foods advertised as containing beef were found to contain undeclared horse meat, with percentage of up to a hundred discovered in some cases.

During the course of investigation other undeclared meat such as pork, were found to be contained in some food; an explosive evidence, which suggested a complex network of companies were trading in and mislabelling beef products.

The Controversial Hot-dog Manufacturing Process

There were many tall tales about how hot dogs were made, but a certain group was eager to tell the real one.

In a very graphic unclear video, fresh un-skinned carcass of horses, cows and pigs were fed directly into a grounding machine to be grounded with their intestines, teeth's and even shoe cover, and later fed to other compartments for further production processes.

The video claimed to be exposing the ruthless and crazy ‘time saving and resource conserving’ methods some sausage manufacturers adopt in the production process, which includes grinding the entire skinned carcass without extraction of any body part; both internal and external.

Some other rumours were addressing the ill treatments animals undergo in the slaughterhouse and how ill animals were ‘always’ marked and passed healthy for the production process.

China (2008) Melamine in Baby Food

The “china melamine in milk” was one incident that seriously jeopardised the flourishing diary business in china as well as its export.

Around 2008, melamine an industrial waste used in plastic manufacture was reported to have been found in the products of some diary companies in china.

Prior to the incident, the Chinese diary market was in the early stages of mass production which lead to the sacrifice of quality to address for the intensified competition in acquiring dairy products as well as price competition.

To reduce production cost and maximise gain, intermediaries altered the rawness of some dairy products, notably by the addition of water in the case of raw-milk.

But since the easiest way the numerical value of the protein content in the altered diaries was going to pass the quality inspection check, was if the altered diaries were adulterated with a foreign substance capable of boosting its apparent protein reading,

That resulted in the use of melamine which was the cheaper and readily available technology as opposed to any other adulterant.

Since the methods used for protein analysis as at then could not distinguish whether the nitrogen was from protein or non-protein source, the diaries passed the quality check and were passed safe for consumption by infants and others.

There were approximately 300,000 casualties from the incident. 

As few as 6 babies died of kidney stones and other kidney related problems while several thousand were hospitalised for malnutrition and other health related issues from the melamine.

China (2015) Zombie Frozen Meat

In 2015, there were rumour breakout alleging that gangs in china had been intercepted by Chinese custom officials for illegally smuggling in ‘three billion Yuan’ worth frozen meat as old as 40-years of which pig trotters from the 1970s and chicken wings from the 1980s were a part of.

The meat many years beyond its expiry date was reportedly going to be sold to food companies.

Fake Meat

fake meat
Photo credit: Markus Spiske temporausch.com from Pexels

In 2009, there were reports suggesting that some businesses in Qingdao, Shandong were marinating duck meat in goat or sheep urine to give it the smell and taste of lamb meat, and then sold to customers as lamb meat.

Another shocking claim was that some Chinese business were manufacturing fake beef from pork mixed with chemicals such as paraffin wax and industrial salts and then sold to people as beef.

In another case in 2013, it was cat meat slaughtered at a “black” slaughterhouse that was sold to butchers and local markets under the guise of “rabbit”.

In 2017, an investigation by the Guardian and ITV news recorded undercover footage of workers altering the slaughter date of poultry being processed at 2 Sister Food Group plant. A move which could dupe consumers into buying meat past its use-by date.

There were also several other rumours in India, Nigeria, China and some other countries suggesting the use of dead animals by food vendors either knowingly or unknowingly to prepare meals for customers, as it is more cost friendly.

Gutter Oil Scandal

In the continent of Asia, there were sick cases reported of skilful lawbreakers illegally reprocessing used cooking oil [gutter oil] to be resold as a cheaper alternative to normal cooking oil.

Some versions of the used oil to be reprocessed were sourced from restaurant fryers, slaughterhouse waste, grease traps, sewage from sewer drains and used oil sold by restaurants,

While newer versions were sourced from discarded animal parts, animal fat and skins, internal organs, and expired or sometimes low quality meat cooked in large vats to extract the oil.

The oil which shows no difference in appearance to normal cooking oil is in some cases branded, or sold to restaurants and consumers directly.

It is really worth noting that:

Food fraud exists at different levels; from that baker you gave a 5000 Naira contract to your most trusted bottled water brand, people can do anything for profit.

Food fraud will forever be a threat and a major influencer in some of our decisions.
But the wicked fact though is that it will always be escalated and worsened by fake rumours.

Fake rumours which..
  • Have hurt brands
  • Unnecessarily lowered sales
  • Damaged reputation
  • Were geared towards selfish gains
And most of all instilled unnecessary fear and hatred towards that which we swear and live by.
It is a world darkening by every minute and you need the brightest torch to find the safest route. - Mustapha Bunu (me)
Create awareness, But dont hurt the innocent doing that.

Citation

  1. Lu Xiaojing, 2011. The Cause and Effect Analysis of the Melamine Incident in China. Asian journal of Agricultural Research, 5: 176-185.
  2. Bennett Alan Weinberg, Bonnie K. Bealer, 2002. The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of World’s Most Popular Drug. Routledge.
  3. Wikipedia

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