Tainted honey, counterfeit eggs, and the impending “fake food” epidemic

    As our population exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet, and natural resources dwindle, I imagine we’ll see more and more companies selling things for human consumption that probably shouldn’t be consumed. While none of the recent examples of “fake food” that I’m aware of rise to the level of the case in China a few years ago, where parents were being sold lethal baby formula which included malamine, a chemical used in the making of plastics, it seems as though every day there’s another story in the news about deceptively-labeling food products making their way onto store shelves. From tilapia being passed off as red snapper and horse meat being sold as beef, to the widespread sale of fake olive oil and faux pomegranate juice, the stories have become commonplace. (And let’s not forget the possibility, according to a recent edition of This American Life, that the delicious calamari that we’re so fond of eating is really pig rectum.) It’s certainly nothing new that unscrupulous sons-of-bitches looking to make a fast buck would be willing to substitute lower quality food items for ones of higher perceived value, but it seems to me that it’s more pervasive now than ever… Maybe that’s good news, though. Maybe the fact that we’re hearing about it more these days means that we’re getting better at identifying fraud. I can’t help but think, however, that more examples are coming to our attention because things are getting exponentially worse, and we’re rapidly descending the slippery slope that ends with the mass consumption of Soylent Green.

    Thanks to a post on Metafilter, I’ve spent the last hour learning about contaminated honey from China. Apparently, several years ago, we erected trade barriers to keep Chinese honey out of the United States market, as it showed traces of heavy metals, and the antibiotic chloramphenicol (which has been linked to aplastic anaemia), but that hasn’t kept companies from smuggling it into the U.S. through other countries, like Australia. In fact, according to a 2011 investigation by Food Safety News, more than one third of the honey consumed in America, despite the laws we have in place, has its origins in China, where the natural environment is fast collapsing under the burden of the unfettered free market.

    Speaking of China, did you happen to see today that a Chinese entrepreneur is offering a reward of 200,000 yuan to the head of their environmental protection bureau if he’ll swim for 20 minutes in one of the country’s toxic rivers? I’m encouraged that there seems to be a burgeoning environmental movement in China, but one wonders if it can possibly happen quickly enough to change the course that the rapidly growing country is on.

    And, here, as long as we’re talking about China and the problem of fake food, is a fascinating little piece of video on the production of counterfeit eggs made from chemicals… Yes, it would seem that someone in China has figured out that it’s cheaper to make fake eggs in a filthy bathtub than feed real chickens and collect natural eggs from under their feathery bottoms.

    This, my friends, is what true freedom tastes like…

    And it can be ours, right here in America. All we have to do is follow Rand Paul’s advice, kill the EPA, roll back those regulations that we still have on the books, and defund our consumer protection agencies. If we can just do those three things, soon we’ll be living in a paradise like the people of China, enjoying the good life, with our bellies full of delicious “eggs,” just like Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ intended.

    [note: Not all fake food is bad.]

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      31 Comments

      1. Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

        Also, for what it’s worth, I hear they’re still selling those “organic” Chinese pumpkin seeds at Whole Foods.

      2. anonymous
        Posted February 18, 2013 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        How do they even have bees left in China, if we can barely keep colonies alive here?

      3. Posted February 19, 2013 at 4:18 am | Permalink

        “As the population of our planet swells, and as resources dwindle, I imagine we’ll see more and more companies selling things for human consumption that probably shouldn’t be consumed.”

        There is absolutely no evidence that population growth (which is slowing) and “dwindling resources” are fueling chemical additives and counterfeit foods from China or anywhere else.

        This is entirely about all the other things you mention: cutting costs, unscrupulous profit seeking, loose regulation and shoddy enforcement. These are, though, a set of problems unrelated to alarmist discussions of “dwindling resources”.

      4. Kristin
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 4:24 am | Permalink

        I went to my first beekeeping meeting the other night. I look forward to taking sweetener control back from big ag. Aside from the well-documented health effects of melamine, isn’t meat effectively meat as far as one’s body is concerned? Is there a health risk to screened horse meat or pig rectum?

      5. Edward
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        And let’s not forget to include the dreaded “pink slime” on this list.

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/food/2012/10/history_of_pink_slime_how_partially_defatted_chopped_beef_got_rebranded.html

      6. Posted February 19, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        Agreed, Kristin. There’s no harm in eating horse meat or pig rectum, as far as I know. Still, though, I think most people like knowing what they’re consuming.

        And, as for your point, Pete, my sense is that supply and demand does come into it. It’s not just that people want to sell artificial products and make a buck. It’s that the market conditions exist to make it feasible. Yes, that would happen to some extent anyway. Bar owners have probably been watering down drinks since the beginning of time in an attempt to make a little more profit. I’d argue, however, that what we’re seeing now is different. Fish substitution is happening because of over-fishing in our oceans. And if a sufficient supply of real eggs were available, I doubt we’d have people attempting to create counterfeits.

      7. Thom Elliott
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Oh no! What a surprise! People who glibly choke down the organs and musculature of sentient beings and think they have some moral right to do so are being tricked by heartless serial killing industrialists! That’s shocking! What ever shall we do? They think they’re eating the wrong quadrapeds! Somehow people who eat hotdogs are shocked at masticating pig’s rectum, as if they haven’t eaten hundreds of snouts, rectums, feet, intestines, and testicles! How ever can we help the people who are one of the biggest contributers to global climate change through their cruel and mindless diets? How can we stop people who make their filthy lucre through murder, kidnapping, rape, slavery, and corrupting government officals from feeding the ‘wrong’ animals to the gluttinous masses addicted to blood? This is such a problem, eating the flesh of a murdered horse is different then eating the flesh of a murdered ruminant.

      8. Eel
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        The issue isn’t that eating a horse is any better or worse than eating a cow. The issue is that people are not being told what it is that they’re consuming. People should know what they’re eating. When they buy something that says “Australian honey” it should be Australian honey. When they buy something that says “organic” it should be organic.

      9. koosh
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

        despite what gq magazine said a few years ago, the sidetrack does NOT have some of the best pig’s rectum in america.

        everyone knows the best pig’s rectum comes from beezy’s. there nothing as good as a plate of stuffed french toast and a side of apple wood smoked pig’s rectum!!!

      10. XXX
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        I’ve seen the men of Manhole smoking pig rectum in the alley behind Woodruff’s.

      11. Megan
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        This is why i buy whole foods at the farmer’s market and grow as much as i can and buy meat from local farmers. I do want to know what the hell i’m eating.

      12. Thom Elliott
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        People who drink blood and eat flesh by the cubic tonnage shouldn’t be surprised at the dishonesty of an commercial industry whose sole aim is to enrich themselves by murdering animals by the hundreds of thousands. Anyone who could trust what a person who is made wealthy by industrial scale throat slitting says, has got to be blind. You’re a blind man if you could possibly think those people wouldn’t cut any corner, bribe, intimidate, make “food” out of different things then they say. Their avarice is literally blood thirsty. Everytime you eat a taco from Taco Bell, the “meat” you’re eating is mostly sand, the shells are made out of colored & flavored paper, so are the burger buns at other fast food resturants. People are addicted to an industrial solvent called Coca Cola, they drink concotions of endocrine disrupting chemicals called “Energy” drinks, they eat food colored with long chain hydrocarbons, sand, paper, plastic etc. These companies exist to get rich off of addicting you to “food” without any nutritional content whatsoever! Of course they’ll say anything, they buy our politicians routinely.

      13. Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        There are lasers to protect us from fake honey at least: http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/02/laser-intended-for-mars-used-to-detect-honey-laundering/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+arstechnica/index+(Ars+Technica+-+All+content)

      14. koosh
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        after reading that last rant by thom, i can’t help but think he’d taste great sprinkled with sand and served on a cardboard bun.

      15. Elliott
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        It will get worse. You’re right about that.

      16. Posted February 19, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        No need to worry about honey or eggs or rectums being fake if you buy them from a local farmer. The pig rectum in the video looks to be vegan. Thom should be pleased.

      17. G
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Seitan Pig Rectum stuffed with Chemical Freedom Eggs is where it’s at.

      18. MurrayJane
        Posted February 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        Get your meat from a Halal or Kosher butcher. They have standards that can’t be trumped by cost-benefit analysis.

      19. Mr. X
        Posted February 20, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        No need for fake eggs when you have super-efficient, Matrix-like, vertical “brainless” chicken complexes.

        http://www.wired.com/underwire/2012/02/headless-chicken-solution/

      20. Hadley
        Posted February 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        Thom it is great you are healthy now, but you are being quite sanctimonious for somebody who use to shove the same foods you are ranting about down your gullet by the ton.

      21. Meta
        Posted February 20, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        According to reports today, Bao Zhenming, the local environmental protection bureau chief who was offered $32,000 to swim in the Chinese river, has refused, saying that his department is “not responsible” for the pollution.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/china-reward-swim-polluted-river-ruian_n_2717794.html

      22. anonymous
        Posted February 20, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s likely to get worse sooner rather than later, thanks to the sequester, which will drastically cut funding for the FDA. You can read about it here.

        http://strengthenfda.org/2012/06/22/what-if-theres-a-sequester/

      23. Posted February 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        Apparently, there’s a local angle. Michigan Radio is reporting today that a Michigan company is one of the biggest illegal importers of Chinese honey. Here’a a clip:

        A Michigan company has been charged in a scheme federal officials have dubbed ‘Honeygate.’

        Michigan-based Groeb Farms is one of the nation’s largest honey suppliers. The company buys honey in 42 states and around the world.

        Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Groeb Farms and another honey supplier were involved in a scheme to dump Chinese honey in the United States.

        Federal officials say the Chinese honey was declared as other commodities and shipped through third countries. The defendants in the investigation dubbed “Project Honeygate” are accused of evading anti-dumping duties totaling more than $180 million.

        Groeb Farms has agreed to pay a $2 million fine.

        “We take full responsibility for and deeply regret any errors that were made in the past regarding the import of honey,” said Groeb Farms CEO Rolf Richter in a written statement.

        Some of the honey contained antibiotics not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in honey. None of the charges allege any instances of illness or other public health consequences attributed to consumption of the honey….

      24. Posted February 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        @Thom:

        Sanctimonious screed against meat-eaters aside, have you thought about the health implications at all when we’re given a switcheroo at the market? I should know what goes into my body, regardless of whether the buckets of blood I drink ick you out or fill you with moral outrage.

        Why are plants so much better in this mix? Why is plant life placed so below the animal in terms of what is moral to eat? Scientific studies show many forms of plant life communicate in some fashion, and can anticipate actions hazardous to their health, i.e. being burned or cut.

        Regardless of your moral stance on what is consumed, these fake foods are terrible to those who them. They’ve killed kids with formula, and robbed people of livelihood in their own country where they were first produced and eaten. If we do not urge our people, from elected leaders to supermarket CEOs, from individual farmers to agribusiness this may become a wave that deeply harms those who cannot afford real foods.

      25. Interrobang
        Posted February 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        I eat murdered sentient beings, and I like it. Veganism is great if you’re 22 and healthy, not so great if you are 40 and have the kind of digestive issues that mean instant kwashiorkor from a plant-based diet, and inability to digest dairy, eggs, or all the high-protein ancient grains. Twanker.

        While global populations may be declining now (I’m skeptical), we’re still at max resource usage and then some in a lot of places, and completely trashing China’s ecosystem cannot help the problem.

      26. Posted February 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Mark, I may have mentioned this before, but when I started pickling things a few years ago, I found out that most commercial vinegar is a diluted petroleum distillate, including “apple cider flavored” vinegar. (The government says this is perfectly safe, but doesn’t mention that it tastes terrible.) At the time, Groeb Farms had 5 or 6 products, including vinegar in 55-gallon drums branded “Lucky” something-or-other. Their website looked more like this, though I don’t remember the statement that they buy honey from China. I think I would have remembered that: http://www.officesupport.net/Clients/GroebFarms/www/history.htm

        Heinz makes industrial vinegar in Holland, Michigan. I’m sure some of it contains apples, but it is not good vinegar. Eden Foods gives plenty of details on the ancient methods used to make theirs but doesn’t say where it come from, which often means China. I could only find two places in Michigan making 100% cider vinegar and one winery making red wine vinegar.

      27. Meta
        Posted February 28, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        That Chinese environmentalist who challenged his local bureaucrat to swim in the polluted river was severely beaten for his efforts to draw attention to the situation.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9896761/Chinese-environmentalist-beaten-after-calling-on-official-to-swim-in-polluted-creek.html

      28. Meta
        Posted February 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        The Washington Post on the alarming condition of China’s air. The photos are shocking.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/02/28/the-most-shocking-photo-of-beijing-air-pollution-ive-ever-seen/

      29. more info please
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:24 am | Permalink

        Hillary,

        Who are these two Michigan manufacturers of real vinegar?

      30. Meta
        Posted April 2, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        On the explosion of dead pigs in Chinese rivers.

        http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/04/dead-swinegate-anatomy-of-a-chinese-scandal/274549/

      31. Clarence
        Posted July 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        I came here to find stories of others who like to apply honey to their taints. I was disappointed.

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