“At US dinner tables, the food may be a fraud,” read the Seattle Times’ headline, “Federal regulators not doing enough to curb ‘food fraud’,” said The Dallas Morning News. This week, newspapers in several cities carried a Washington Post article illustrating the “rising” food fraud in the U.S.

oil-vinegar-featured.jpg“‘Food fraud’ has been documented in fruit juice, olive oil, spices,

vinegar, wine, spirits, and maple syrup, and appears to pose a

significant problem in the seafood industry,” wrote The Post’s Lyndsey Layton. “Victims range from the

shopper at the local supermarket to multimillion companies, including

E&J Gallo and Heinz USA.”

As Layton noted, food fraud is nothing new, but its prevalence is staggering–and pressure is growing for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act.

“It’s growing very rapidly, and there’s more of it than you might think,” James Morehouse, a senior partner at A.T. Kearney Inc., which is studying the issue for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told the Washington Post.

“The job of ensuring that food is accurately labeled largely rests with the Food and Drug Administration. But it has been overwhelmed in trying to prevent food contamination, and fraud has remained on a back burner,” wrote Layton.

The WaPo article caused lots of buzz on food blogs and prompted a statement from Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), who has been pressing for more stringent food safety enforcement for years. Dingell urged the Senate to act on the pending food safety bill to help overhaul the FDA.

“The story reported by the Washington Post today provides more evidence of an Agency plagued with insufficient authorities and resources to ensure the quality and safety of the U.S. food supply,” said Dingell in a statement released Wednesday.

“As I have said time and time again, an ill-equipped FDA endangers American families and harms the financial viability of American business. Until the Senate acts, more and more Americans are in danger due to unsafe food and deceptive labeling. We can gamble with the lives of the American people no longer.”

“Now that we have successfully addressed health insurance reform, we must turn to the other critical public health crisis–the safety of our food supply. I urge the Senate to take action after the spring recess.”

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510), has been awaiting full Senate consideration since it was unanimously voted out of committee in mid-November.

Sources on the Hill say the bill could be brought to the floor the week of April 12.


Recent Food Safety News coverage of food fraud:

MSU Launches Initiative to Combat Food Fraud March 23, 2010