Top 10 Food Frauds: Hidden Formaldehyde, Plastic Threads, Melamine and Caustic Soda Found in Commonly Consumed Fare


By  Carolanne Wright

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

As food production costs continue to skyrocket due to struggling economies, fuel prices and extreme weather, manufacturers worldwide are becoming creative.

Regrettably, this imaginative process includes such measures as substituting horse (or donkey) meat for beef, plastic threads for saffron, and phthalates for food-grade oil. Honey is diluted with high fructose corn syrup. Extra virgin olive oil is cut with lard. Blueberries are faked. The list documenting rampant food frauds could go on forever.

But one aspect is certain – now more than ever, it behooves us to buy local and source food from reputable small businesses like farmers’ markets and co-ops.

Top 10 Food Counterfeits

The following is a list of common edibles and contaminants:

Coffee: Twigs, roasted corn, barley or soybeans, rye flour, figs, potato flour, chicory powder, maltrodextrin, roasted ground parchment paper.

Honey: Antibiotics, partial invert cane sugar, beet sugar, glucose syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.

Blueberries: Completely fabricated without any real fruit at all. Corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and colors along with starch.

Saffron: Red-dyed silk fiber, plastic threads, barium sulfate, daisy petals, colored grass, turmeric, corn silk, poppy petals, gypsum, starch, borax, glycerine, chalk and tartrazine.

Fruit juice and jams: High-fructose corn syrup, the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Some varieties reportedly were void of real juice.

Olive oil: Peanut, corn or sunflower oil. Palm, walnut, hazelnut or soybean oil. Non-food grade industrial rapeseed oil, lard. Extra-virgin olive oil in China was found to be gutter oil – specifically, oil that has already been used for cooking and ‘recycled’.

Milk: Formaldehyde, machine oil, starch, pork lard, melamine, urea, caustic soda, hydrogen peroxide, detergent.

Orange juice: Monosodium glutamate (MSG), grapefruit solids, beet sugar, corn sugar, potassium sulfate.

Pure maple syrup: Water, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, maple flavor, beet sugar.

Tea: Copper salts, china clay, sand, starch, regular plant leaves, colored straw dust, previously used tea leaves.

Buyer Beware

One of the most shocking food fraud cases involved counterfeit beef sold in Britain. As Jonathan Benson reports in the NaturalNews article, “Horse Meat Found in Yet More Frozen Dinners“, meat labeled as beef might actually be donkey:

“According to Jose Bove, Vice President of the European Parliament agriculture committee, this sudden influx of horse meat into the U.K. could actually include a large percentage of donkey meat as well. As it turns out, a law passed six years ago in Romania that bans horse-drawn carts from public roadways recently came into enforcement, which means millions of horses went to the chopping block. But included in this ban were donkey-drawn carts as well, which means both horse and donkey meat were potentially shipped throughout Europe as ‘beef’.”

PBut before spiraling downward into a fit of despair regarding the state of our food supply, keep in mind the words of Melissa Breyer, author of Food fraud: 10 Counterfeit Products We Commonly Consume:

“Don’t be scared by all of this, but be aware. Buy whole foods when you can. Shop at trusted co-ops and farmers markets when possible … And look out for deals that seem too good to be true; that super cheap saffron could well be nothing more than dyed daisy petals.”

Sources for this article include:


Previous articles by Carolanne:

About the author:

Carolanne Wright

I’m Carolanne — a writer, chef, traveler and enthusiastic advocate for sustainability, organics and joyful living. It’s good to have you here. If you would like to learn more, connect with me at or visit

Soul to Soul