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TomBAvoider

Food Fraud - Something you consider?

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Food fraud is of course an ongoing issue that's been around for decades. The following article doesn't contain much of anything we have not known before (although formaldehyde in milk surprised me), but it does emphasize that food fraud that can put your health at risk occurs not just in 3rd world countries, but the most developed nations too. What I was wondering is how much does the whole issue of food fraud concern you personally, because it strikes me that folks in our position might be slightly less exposed to food fraud, particularly if we largely avoid animal products - or processed food products (Dean famously avoids olive oil - where fraud is rampant). Still, we are also vulnerable to fraud when it comes to spices and the like. I buy my EVOO only from a very reputable source (amphora nueva), but for some things there is just no information - do I really trust the "organic" F&V in ethnic markets where I do most of my buying, or places like Trader Joe (for almonds, wine etc.)? There are limits to the tools we have as consumers - what are your tips and rules for avoiding food fraud? I know Dean has the excellent route of growing his own food, but not all of us are in that fortunate position.

 

The secret toxins in our food

 

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Tom,

 

Pretty scary. 

 

...what are your tips and rules for avoiding food fraud?

 

Besides growing my own food and buying from reputable sources, my primary defense against food fraud is diversity. Buy lots of different foods from lots of different vendors, so that if one is rogue, it won't harm me that much. For example, I get my cacao beans from multiple sources. Same goes for coffee beans, green tea, and for vegetable powders. I avoid putting too many nutritional (and metaphorical) 'eggs' in the same basket.

 

--Dean

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I prefer to know as much as possible about the eggs I put in my basket which is one of the reasons we have hens and we get milk from a nearby friend with dwarf nigerian dairy goats.   In addition to knowing  of their quality /  lack of fraud, I also am keenly aware of the costs of their production (no exploited labor, minimal environmental impact, hens free to leave but choosing to stay because they like their home, etc.) so despite Dean's objections I feel ethically much more comfortable eating the eggs we produce than plant foods about which I know little such as the organic chia I've bought.  And while there is a risk of lead exposure with livestock in an urban environment with massive lead pollution we have carefully taken steps to manage and mitigate that risk.  We grow herbs like oregano, so no concern there but we buy most of our spices and supposedly many, even high end brands, have heavy metal contamination.  So we consume to excess those foods we produce or know most about and consume in moderation everything else.

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Diversity to spread the risk (a la Dean) is a good remedy - f.ex. Dean consumes black rice; in the article, they mention that rice can have high arsenic levels - as happens, brown rice has particularly high arsenic levels (and yet is thought of as the "healthy" rice compared to white), but what is the arsenic level in black rice, especially that there are varieties of black rice and grown in different places... I doubt Dean researched that aspect of the black rice he buys, but he skates by because of diversifying his intake.

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Tom,

 

Rice is another example of where I employ a strategy of diversity. I buy and consume three different types of rice - brown basmati rice, red rice and black rice. Basmati rice is lower in arsenic than other brown rices, and I diversity the nutrients and the arsenic risk in rice by adding red and black rice to the mix. Plus, I only consume the three rices in relatively small quantities - about 40g total rice per day as part of my starch mix. That is a little over a ¼ of the standard serving of rice per day, or around two full servings per week or less than one serving per week of any single type of rice from any single vendor, which I consider modest amount.

 

--Dean

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