Fake-food scandal





Consumers are being sold drinks with banned flame-retardant additives, pork in beef, and fake cheese, laboratory tests show

Consumers are being sold food including mozzarella that is less than half real cheese, ham on pizzas that is either poultry or "meat emulsion", and frozen prawns that are 50% water, according to tests by a public laboratory.

The checks on hundreds of food samples, which were taken in West Yorkshire, revealed that more than a third were not what they claimed to be, or were mislabelled in some way. Their results have been shared with the Guardian.

Testers also discovered beef mince adulterated with pork or poultry, and even a herbal slimming tea that was neither herb nor tea but glucose powder laced with a withdrawn prescription drug for obesity at 13 times the normal dose
Some ham tested contained 'meat emulsion' (meat ground with additives so fat can be put through it) or 'meat slurry' (removing scraps of meat from bones). Photo: Alamy

A third of fruit juices sampled were not what they claimed or had labelling errors. Two contained additives that are not permitted in the EU, including brominated vegetable oil, which is designed for use in flame retardants and linked to behavioural problems in rats at high doses.

Experts said they fear the alarming findings from 38% of 900 sample tests by West Yorkshire councils were representative of the picture nationally, with the public at increasing risk as budgets to detect fake or mislabelled foods plummet.

Counterfeit vodka sold by small shops remains a major problem, with several samples not meeting the percentage of alcohol laid down for the spirit. In one case, tests revealed that the "vodka" had been made not from alcohol derived from agricultural produce, as required, but from isopropanol, used in antifreeze and as an industrial solvent.

Samples were collected both as part of general surveillance of all foods and as part of a programme targeted at categories of foodstuffs where cutting corners is considered more likely.

West Yorkshire's public analyst, Dr Duncan Campbell, said of the findings: "We are routinely finding problems with more than a third of samples, which is disturbing at a time when the budget for food standards inspection and analysis is being cut."

He said he thought the problems uncovered in his area were representative of the picture in the country as a whole.


The scale of cheating and misrepresentation revealed by the tests was described by Maria Eagle, the shadow environment secretary, as unacceptable. "Consumers deserve to know what they are buying and eating and cracking down on the mislabelling of food must become a greater priority for the government," she said.

A Defra spokesperson said: "There are already robust procedures in places to identify and prevent food fraud and the FSA has increased funding to support local authorities to carry out this work to £2m.


"We will continue to work closely with the food industry, enforcement agencies and across government to improve intelligence on food fraud and clamp down on deliberate attempts to deceive consumers."

Testing food is the responsibility of local authorities and their trading standards departments, but as their budgets have been cut many councils have reduced checks or stopped collecting samples altogether.

The number of samples taken to test whether food being sold matched what was claimed fell nationally by nearly 7% between 2012 and 2013, and had fallen by over 18% in the year before that. About 10% of local authorities did no compositional sampling at all last year, according to the consumer watchdog Which?

West Yorkshire is unusual in retaining a leading public laboratory and maintaining its testing regime. Samples are anonymised for testing by public analysts to prevent bias, so we are unable to see who had made or sold individual products. Many of the samples were collected from fast-food restaurants, independent retailers and wholesalers; some were from larger stores and manufacturers.

Substitution of cheaper ingredients for expensive materials was a recurring problem with meat and dairy products – both sectors that have seen steep price rises on commodity markets. While West Yorkshire found no horsemeat in its tests after the scandal had broken, mince and diced meats regularly contained meat of the wrong species.

In some cases, this was likely to be the result of mincing machines in butcher's shops not being properly cleaned between batches; in others there was clear substitution of cheaper species. Samples of beef contained pork or poultry, or both, and beef was being passed off as more expensive lamb, especially in takeaways, ready meals, and by wholesalers.

Ham, which should be made from the legs of pigs, was regularly made from poultry meat instead: the preservatives and brining process add a pink colour that makes it hard to detect except by laboratory analysis.

Meat emulsion – a mixture in which meat is finely ground along with additives so that fat can be dispersed through it – had also been used in some kinds of ham, as had mechanically separated meat, a slurry produced by removing scraps of meat from bones, which acts as a cheap filler although its use is not permitted in ham.

Levels of salt that breached target limits set by the Food Standards Agency were a recurring problem in sausages and some ethnic restaurant meals. The substitution of cheaper vegetable fat for the dairy fat with which cheese must legally be made was common. Samples of mozzarella turned out in one case to be only 40% dairy fat, and in another only 75%.


Several samples of cheese on pizzas were not in fact cheese as claimed but cheese analogue, made with vegetable oil and additives. It is not illegal to use cheese analogue but it should be properly identified as such.

Using water to adulterate and increase profits was a problem with frozen seafood. A kilo pack of frozen king prawns examined contained large quantities of ice glaze, and on defrosting the prawns themselves were found to be 18% added water. Only half the weight of the pack was seafood as opposed to water.

In some cases the results raised concerns over immediate food safety. The herbal slimming tea that was mostly sugar contained a prescription obesity drug that has been withdrawn because of its side-effects.

Making false promises was a dominant theme among vitamin and mineral supplements. Of 43 samples tested, 88% made health claims that are not allowed under legislation because there is no science to support them or were mislabelled as to their content in some way.

Even when fraud or mislabelling is found, it is not aways followed up. Once it has detected a problem with a product, a council is required to refer it to the home authority in which it was originally made, which may or may not take enforcement action.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, called for more effective use of resources and tougher penalties.

"No one wants to see another incident like the horsemeat scandal happen again and the rigorous enforcement of standards underpinned by effective levels of food testing is essential for restoring consumers' trust in this industry," he said.






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DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them




In a new study published in the peer reviewed Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers emphasize that there is sufficient evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments carry complete genes that can enter into the human circulation system through an unknown mechanism. I wonder if the scientists at these biotech corporations have already identified this method? In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA.

The study was based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies. PLOS is an open access, well respected peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers primary research from disciplines within science and medicine. It’s great to see this study published in it, confirming what many have been suspecting for years.

When it comes to genetically modified crops and foods, we really have no idea of what the long term effects will be on the public. The very first commercial sale of genetically modified foods was only twenty years ago in the year 1994. There is no possible way that our health authorities can test all possible combinations on a large enough population, over a long enough period of time to be able to say with certainty that they are harmless. Geneticist David Suzuki recently expressed his concern, saying that human beings are part of a “massive genetic experiment” over many years, as thousands of people continue to consume GMO’s, and it makes sense.


Advances in genome science over the past few years have revealed that organisms can share their genes. Prior to this, it had been thought that genes were shared only between individual members of a species through reproduction. Geneticists usually followed the inheritance of genes in what they would call a ‘vertical’ fashion, such as breeding a male and female -you follow their offspring and continue down the road from there. Today, scientists recognize that genes are shared not only among the individual members of a species, but also among members of different species.

“Our bloodstream is considered to be an environment well separated from the outside world and the digestive tract. According to the standard paradigm large macromolecules consumed with food cannot pass directly to the circulatory system. During digestion proteins and DNA are thought to be degraded into small constituents, amino acids and nucleic acids, respectively, and then absorbed by a complex active process and distributed to various parts of the body through the circulation system. Here, based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system. In one of the blood samples the relative concentration of plant DNA is higher than the human DNA. The plant DNA concentration shows a surprisingly precise log-normal distribution in the plasma samples while non-plasma (cord blood) control sample was found to be free of plant DNA.” 

It’s not like a human being mates with an apple, banana or a carrot plant and exchanges genes. What biotechnology and biotech corporations like Monsanto have done, is they have allowed for the transfer of genes from one to the other without any regard for the biological limitations, or constraints. The problem with this is that it is based on very bad science. The conditions and biological ‘rules’ that apply to vertical gene transfer, at least those that we are aware of, do not necessarily apply to horizontal gene transfer.

Biotech science today is based on the assumption that the principles governing the inheritance of genes are the same when we move genes horizontally as they are when they are moved vertically. It just goes to show that GMO’s should be subjected to much more experimentation and rigorous research before we continue to consume them. How can our governing health authorities approve these as safe? It’s almost as if they told us they were safe, and we just believed them without questioning it. We seem to be a very gullible race, but things are changing and more are starting to question the world around them. 


                       Image property DeesIllustration.com

“One small mutation in a human being can determine so much, the point is when you move a gene, one gene, one tiny gene out of an organism into a different one you completely change its context. There is no way to predict how it’s going to behave and what the outcome will be. We think that we design these life forms, but it’s like taking the Toronto orchestra prepared to play a Beethoven symphony and then you take some random drummers from “here” and flip them in with the Toronto symphony and you say play music. What comes out is going to be something very very different. Publicists say that there is good intention behind GMOs, but the fact of the matter is it’s driven by money.” – David Suzuki 


I personally believe the intentions go beyond money, but that’s another story.

It’s also pretty clear that DNA from food can and does end up in animal tissues and the milk products that people eat. There are studies that show when humans or animals digest genetically modified foods, the artificially created genes transfer into and alter the character of the beneficial bacteria in the intestine.

Researchers report that microbes found in the small bowel of people with ilestomy are capable of acquiring and harboring DNA sequences from GM plants. Genetically modified crops have infiltrated animal feed since 1996, and it’s normal for them to have a complete GM diet. Studies have linked GMO animal feed to severe stomach inflammation and enlarged uteri in pigs.


It’s also important to note that gene transfer among genetically engineered agricultural crops and surrounding native species has given rise to a highly resistant species called super weeds. According to the world health organization, gene transfer and the movement of genes from GM plants into conventional crops or related species may have an effect on food safety and food security.

“This risk is real, as was shown when traces of maize type which was only approved for feed use appeared in maize products from human consumption in the United States.”


The truth is, genetic engineers have never taken the reality of gene transfer into consideration when they produce these things and introduce them into the environment. As a result, we are now starting to see the consequences of genes that are engineered, particularly how they spread and alter other organisms in various environments. Watrud et al (2004) found that the herbicide-resistance transgene spread via pollen to an area up to 21 km beyond the control area perimeter and had pollinated wild creeping bentgrass.

Prior to this year, governments concluded that transfer of DNA from GM crops/foods is unlikely to occur. Now we can see that they are wrong, or perhaps they had knowledge of this already? Regardless of the fact that DNA from GM foods can be transferred to humans and animals, very little is still known today and what is known does not look good. There are studies linking GMO’s and pesticides to various ailments. We’ve presented and written about them on our website numerous times, this is another article to add to the growing amount of evidence to suggest we need to halt the production of GMO’s until we conclusively know that they are safe for human consumption.

It’s not a mystery why most countries around the world have completely banned GMO’s.



Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14730317


http://natureinstitute.org/nontarget/reports/bentgrass_001.php

http://www.food.gov.uk/policy-advice/gm/gmanimal#.UsxuFPbXFGH



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