Counterfeit Food Making Its Way To U.S. Dinner Tables, Research Finds

Counterfeit version of food and drinks are working their way into the United States as Interpol police work to keep up with the international smugglers.

Police working to stop the problem have intercepted food like candy bars, fish and tomato sauce, CBS4 in Miami reported.

The problem has become so widespread that a national database was created to try to track the smuggling, but CBS4 reported that it’s been difficult because once the food moves beyond the production and shipping process it can be impossible to spot.

John Spink, associate director of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program at Michigan State University, told CBS4 that these products are so widespread that they touch the dinner plates of nearly all Americans.

The Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program has joined U.S. and national officials in combating the problem. The program publishes research on food counterfeiting and also offers classes to law enforcement agencies to help spot counterfeits.

Spink conducted a study of the new database and found that 16 percent of cases of counterfeit food involved olive oil, with 14 percent involving milk that is watered down. He also found honey mixed with sugar and corn syrup and diluted fruit juice.

“We think we’re buying a high value or specific type of product and the bad guys have swapped it out with something that’s inferior,” Spink told CBS4.

“Food adulteration is designed to not be detected. So, frequently adulterers do not use fake ingredients that would cause immediate health problems.”

The problem has grown so large that many companies have hired security firms to monitor the problem, CBS4 reported.

“We’ve unfortunately found counterfeits of pretty much any product that you can think of,” Tara Steketee of OpSec Security told CBS4.

These cases lower the quality of food, but can also be dangerous for consumers. Vodka that had been laced with methanol left some British college students with permanent vision damage, CBS4 found.