Here is your weekly newsletter. We hope you enjoy!
As we mentioned last week, not all of our newsletters will be pet-related.
This week we present the second in a 3 part series on human food.
To tide you over temporarily, see this TED talk on communications between dog and human: https://youtu.be/uDDZ17DImoo
For those who have only recently subscribed, you can see our archived dog and animal-related
newsletters archived at this private link: https://archive.aweber.com/awlist5389938Thank You so much,
Sidra, David and Tongka
Part 2: Food Fraud and Pollution
We have learned to read labels, choose the best foods from a nutritional point of view, pay attention to additives and excess salt and sugar.
We are informed about the origin of foods to prefer only eco-friendly companies; also, we know how food processing works to choose the healthiest food ever.
And yet, sometimes all this is not enough: false labels, unreported dyes, an untruthful list of ingredients and food origin, products labeled as organic filled with pesticides.
There are intentional food frauds, those put in place to make more money or to speed up production. Then there are the cases of pollution or contamination, sometimes involuntary, but a symptom of superficiality in the treatment of food.
Thus, finding the right information about the food and who produces it can take a little longer, and often the label is not enough.
Let’s look at some examples of contaminated or counterfeit foods that have shocked consumers around the world.
Olive oil is one of the foods most exposed to fraud. Olive oil is considered one of the healthiest seasonings, despite the high intake of calories, it contains many nutrients and antioxidants.
Because of its qualities and the processing methods required, it is also costly. Here it becomes the favorite target of adulteration.
The last of a long series took place in Italy a few months ago. In Tuscany, the investigations made it possible to discover a criminal organization that handled the traffic of large quantities of mixed soybean oil by adding chlorophyll and beta-carotene to look more like olive oil.
They sold the fake oil to restaurants and hotels. Fake olive oil is not harmful to human health, but the scam has generated considerable illicit profit for restaurants and all their customers.
Wine has all the credentials to be adulterated! Sold on a large scale, expensive and with processing methods unknown to most of the population.
Counterfeit wines offer the highest profit margins, and their trade is worth billions of dollars. Perfect labels and bottles like the originals are beyond suspicion, especially if we think of the rare wines that are collected and never opened or they are opened after many years from purchase.
A famous example is the case of oenologist Rudy Kurniawan considered one of the most respected French wine experts and collectors in the United States.
In 2013 he was sentenced to ten years in prison by a federal court in Manhattan for having forged and sold for at least eight years false bottles of fine wine for millions of dollars. This is the biggest scam in history ever in this field.
Even if we are not collectors of fine wines, we cannot consider ourselves safe, because frauds and irregularities also occur for the most typical wines and are often dangerous to health.
The serious problem concerns the falsification of the labels, the watering down, the irregular addition of aromas and even the marketing of powder mixtures called “Wine Kit”, easily purchased on the internet.
The sensational case of methanol wine dates back to 1986 in Italy. Methanol, present in minimal quantities during the fermentation of grapes, is directly linked to the alcohol content of the wine.
One of the most common sophistications to increase the alcohol content and correct a bad year was the addition of sugar, now illegal in some countries like Italy, but still not dangerous.
The producers instead decided to add methanol in a disproportionate amount causing the death of 23 people, the intoxication of many others and permanent severe damage such as blindness.
French wine in the historic Bordeaux region is world-famous and is an example of quality and excellence. French and international sources say that the amount of pesticides used in vineyards is superior to any other European region and is directly linked to cancer cases.
In 2013 the French consumer association, the UFC-Que Choisir, carried out a check on 92 bottles. Some of these pesticides would be prohibited, and traces of pesticides were also found in some bottles labeled as organic.
The link between pesticides and neurodegenerative diseases has therefore been made official, and in France, Parkinson and Alzheimer’s have been recognized by law as professional diseases of winemakers.
Meat is one of the most delicate products because its deterioration is fast and is subject to the proliferation of bacteria and viruses dangerous to health.
The breeding of animals, their health, and nutrition are critical to obtaining healthy and edible meat for human beings.
Unfortunately, there are many cases of diseases transmitted to humans due to poor meat due to the treatment of animals, or to poor hygiene after slaughter.
The last case a few months ago in Spain. A listeriosis epidemic has already caused 150 confirmed cases and one dead, plus 500 suspected cases. The outbreak has been identified in the listeria contamination of minced pork produced by a company in Seville.
The bacterium that causes listeriosis is widespread in the environment and is commonly found in the soil, water, vegetation, and feces of numerous animal species, without these showing any apparent symptoms. The cause of the contamination can, therefore, be poor hygiene.
It was 1999 when there was the dioxin scandal. Chickens from Belgium and sold throughout Europe showed an excessive amount of dioxin. The principal cause turned out to be fat legally injected into animal feed to increase its caloric content, but contaminated by the dioxin present in industrial oils.
The quantity was 500 times greater than that which the World Health Organization indicates as “tolerable” by the human organism.
One of the most striking cases was the mad cow disease in Great Britain (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), with the first cases recognized in 1986, but only in 1999 was it discovered that the disease was transmitted to humans. Also, in this case, the cause of the illness was animal feeding.
Meat meal was used to feed the cows: to eliminate excess fat, they used potentially dangerous or carcinogenic solvents that were treated with particular substances.
In 2001 the European community banned the use of meat meal, thus avoiding the recycling of the infecting agent through the use of carcasses of sick cattle in the production of meat meal and bones for animal feed.
In 2012 the EU then restored the possibility of feeding livestock with animal meals.
Mad cow disease, in its human variant of Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease, has killed 207 people in Europe over the past 25 years.
It is one of the most recommended foods by specialists. Unfortunately, many fish products contain heavy metals, mostly mercury and fat-soluble pollutants from water pollution.
Mercury is dangerous for both natural and human ecosystems because it is a metal known to be highly toxic, mainly due to its ability to damage the central nervous system.
The longest-living fish species at the top of the food chain such as marlin, tuna, shark, swordfish, royal mackerel, tilefish, and pike contain higher concentrations of mercury than others. In reality, the fish that have a higher content of omega 3 are also those that show a higher level of mercury.
Consuming products that contain mercury a few times beyond the limits set by the institutions does not cause intoxication.
Still, doctors advise that could be a risk from pregnant women and children as poisoning can be transmitted to the fetus via the placenta or to the newborn through breast milk.
The microplastics add another problem for the consumption of fish. Recent studies have shown that out of 504 fish taken from the English Channel, 184 contained small grains of microplastics.
Other research on fish caught off the Portuguese coast found that 17 of 26 species had residues in the body. Fortunately, not all the pieces swallowed by the fish come to our tables. In some cases, they stagnate in the gastrointestinal tract, so they are eliminated when the fish is gutted.
But in the case of small fish and mollusks, the intestinal tracts are not removed, and the particles eventually end up in the dish. Then we have to consider the smaller fragments deriving from the degradation of waste, and “granules” coming from cosmetic and industrial waste.
Supplements are not considered authentic food though are taken on by those who need help for their health. Let’s think about the supplements of vitamins, or supplements for the functioning of the brain, to improve digestion, drainage, etc. These supplements are always produced and marketed for a public that is attentive to their health.
In 2015, food fraud was discovered in the United States for herbal supplements. According to the New York State Attorney General’s Office, 79% of the products of the four leading companies, GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, do not contain the ingredients indicated on the label or incorporate others, which are not declared.
Following the investigations to the retailers, it was ordered to suspend the sale, because the terms are misleading and constitute an unacceptable danger to health, especially for those suffering from allergies.
The most significant percentage of mismatch between the label and actual content involved the supplements sold by the Walmart department store chain (only 4% contains the botanical species indicated on the label).
35% of the samples examined revealed the presence of undeclared plant species, such as rice, beans, pine, citrus fruits, asparagus, primrose, wheat, houseplants, and wild carrot.
From Walgreens, for example, a famous brand of ginseng pills, advertised for physical endurance and vitality, contained only powdered garlic and rice.
At Walmart, Ginkgo Biloba, promoted to enhance memory, contained little more than radish powder, houseplants, and wheat, although the label reported it was wheat-free and gluten-free.
These are just a few examples of how the food industry can knowingly deceive us to increase profits, or put on our table food that has not been effectively controlled.
Being constantly informed is useful to counteract these events, especially if we are dealing with foods that we consume every day.