Adulterated Foods – Say What?!

Posted: January 23, 2013 in Food allergies, Food safety

Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.

–          Hippocrates

Unless your food is a fraud, like some of the five hundred plus ingredients listed on the USP Food Fraud Database today.  My journey down this tangent began with a link to a Good Morning America article and may never stop.  (Much to my husband’s regret.)  Once I saw this, I had to check out their newly launched database for myself and was absolutely disgusted with the evidence they’ve collected showing many of our foods and additives may not be what they legally should be.  Friends, these adulterated foods are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing, and I probably won’t shelve my concerns on this issue until I find out exactly who has been caught with their hands in the cookie jar due to the unethical, economically motivated adulteration of foods.

It’s a pretty significant problem according to the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention and most commonly occurs in liquids or finely ground foods that are easy to tamper with:

  • Olive oils (Often adulterated to include cheaper oils including corn, soybean, walnut, peanut, lard, etc.)
  • Lemon juice (Containing sugar and water as fillers, citric acid additives, even Bergamot juice)
  • Tea (Mixed with china clay, copper salts, colored saw dust, Iron-hexacyanoferrate, and other lovely-sounding additives.)
  • Spices (Combined with dung powder, brick powder, sand, coffee husks, and gluten-containing flours as well as several varieties of lead compounds and chemicals all believed to be very toxic.)

Specifically, look up paprika.  You’ll see 13 accounts of food fraud in the new USP Food Fraud Database.  These reports include more innocent adulterations from spices sourced from non-authentic geographic origins to the addition of crystalline lead compounds and carcinogenic chemical dyes.  I’m excited to see the data all neat and tidy – but seriously wish they had listed the questionable manufacturers/producers of these fraud food ingredients.

Lead tetraoxide - looks quite similar to paprika spice, doesn't it.

Lead tetraoxide – looks quite similar to paprika spice, doesn’t it?

According to Report #1094, an unstated brand of paprika contains Lead tetroxide.  Lead tetraoxide, also referred to as red lead, minimum, or triplumbic tetroxide is a bright red crystalline pigment.  Most often, it’s used chemically in batteries, lead glass, and paints.  Known reactions for this chemical state that Lead tetroxide is virtually insoluble in water and alcohol.  However, it’s easily soluble in the hydrochloric acid that’s present in our stomach’s making it toxic upon ingestion.

Another report, #1096, reveals the use of Sudan I dye, which is a chemical additive primarily used as coloring for oils, waxes, petrols, polishes, and solvents.  It’s known to be a rodent carcinogen and many tests have led to the European Union banning the use of this additive in foods.  It was a hot topic in February of 2005 throughout the United Kingdom when it was found in a popular brand of Worcestershire sauce contaminated by and adulterated chili powder.  Since this scare, the country of Sudan requested a name change for this dye.  Today, it’s still present in many foods under the guise of about 62 creative names.  Some even have a natural-sounding ring to them, like, “Orient oil Orange PS, Oil Orange, Calco oil Orange, and Brasilazina oil Orange, among others.”

How about Sudan dye?  This carcinogen was detected in adulterated paprika as an illegal filler.

How about Sudan dye? This carcinogen was detected in adulterated paprika as an illegal filler.

Report #207 states that Lead oxide was found as a replacement in Paprika spice.  Lead oxide is exactly what it sounds like – Lead!  Today’s applications for this inorganic compound include lead-based glass and ceramics as well as computer components.  If you read the ILO page, it includes a warning under Environmental Data “Bioaccumulation of this chemical may occur in plants and in mammals. It is strongly advised that this substance does not enter the environment.”  It also states that there is an inhalation risk, “A harmful concentration of airborne particles can be reached quickly when dispersed, especially if powdered.”  Finally, “The substance may have effects on the blood, bone marrow, central nervous system, peripheral nervous system and kidneys resulting in anemia, encephalopathy, peripheral nerve disease, abdominal cramps and kidney impairment.  Causes toxicity to human reproduction or development.”

The good news to this story is that there is definite power in numbers and this new Food Fraud database will help to illustrate the depth of adulterated foods to the FDA.  I’m hopeful that their collective scientific efforts and positive changes will force the removal of questionable foods; like the paprika I’ve discussed in my article making our world just a teeny bit safer.  Until that happens, I’m going to keep buying my fancy-schmancy organic paprika and oils – just in case.

Have a wonderful Tuesday,

Your Muckraking Maven


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