If you have recently eaten at a restaurant, or even shopped at a grocery store, there is a possibility that you have been a victim of fraud. While most people associate the notion of fraud with finances or false identities, the act of creating “a copy of something that is meant to look like the real thing in order to trick people” is happening in our food system and it’s happening a lot more frequently than you think. It’s time we all talked about the elephant in the room, or in this case, the elephant in the field.
Fraud in the food industry is not new but has been recently garnering attention on a world-wide scale. In early March, University of Guelph professor Sylvain Charlebois posted a very thorough and in depth article in the Globe & Mail regarding food fraud in North America and Europe.
Chances are you have already unknowingly purchased a counterfeit food product at a restaurant, a retailer or even at a high-end specialty store. – Sylvain Charlebois
Using a recent U.S. study, Charlebois discovered that a substitution rate of 57 per cent in meat products. Moreover, Canadian restaurants have also come under fire for deceiving customers by advertising certain products as “local” and “organic” to describe products which were neither.
A lot of consumers are being defrauded because they are buying products that are being sold as organic or local or whatever the attribute may be, and there’s nothing different between it and the commodity products coming from South America and other parts of the world. – Cory Vangroningen
We as beef farmers and producers are keenly aware of counterfeiting and what it is doing to our local economy. We are standing up to food fraud in our province and want you to be a part of our Food Fraud Squad by talking about the elephant in the room, or in this case, the elephant in the kitchen.
How do I join the Food Fraud Squad? Start by asking questions. When you go to a restaurant or butcher shop, ask where their meat is coming from and don’t stop there. Many staff will not be knowledgeable and/or may try to brush you off.
- Who supplies it?
- Where was the animal raised?
- What ingredients does the chef or owner support that are local?
Counterfeiting causes products to go down in price, which makes it more challenging for ethical, honest local food producers and processors to make a decent living. Sylvain Charlebois