Christmas shopping - almost what it says on the wrapper...

Unfortunately, products which may seem healthy and nutritious are not always what they seem. The manufacturers have lots of tricks up their sleeves which allow them to 'mislead' the customers and make the impression of a valuable product. That's why it's so important to carefully read the labels during shopping. The worst part, though, is that this might not be enough. In the food industry there are more ways to mislead the buyer than only elaborate marketing strategies. There's a more brutal tactic: food scams.

What does it mean that a food has been scamed?

A scam food has had its ingredients or other properties 'covertly' altered in a way invisible to the customer. That includes hiding information about the actual ingredients, along with improper description of nutritional value, best before date and various other techniques used to make the food look as food of a desired quality are considered a food scam. A food scam would be a product e.g. not having some of the ingredients listed on the label, or having a 'bonus' one added in, yet not mentioned on the label (e.g. a preservative). The information about the best before date or place of origin might also be altered. Finally, a product could pose as a different food of a higher quality or nutritional value.

Why stitch up food?

The main reason the producers falsify food is in order to increase income or simply - to generate a specific market situation. There's no doubt that the customers want to buy their food as cheap as possible. This means that the supermarkets will try to negotiate the lowest prices with the producers and wholesalers and will sign contracts with the ones who provide the best price. In practice, all that it takes is for the manufacturer or supplier of the given article to become much more attractive to the buyer is to use some illegal 'trick', which will allow them to 'save' money on the label or production. What's even worse - such a 'leader' will quickly find followers and companies trying to emulate their practise in order to raise the attractiveness of their products and prices!

Conclusion. How to avoid being scammed.

It's really hard to avoid food scams, because the 'trick' lies in the producers carefully concealing their unethical practices. There are a couple of ways you can minimize the risk, though.

  • First of all, read the labels closely. Sometimes you only need a glimpse to notice that there's something fishy going on. For example, you only need to have one look at the label of some 'butters' to notice that it's a mix of butterfat and plant oils.
  • It's best to buy unprocessed, or low-processed foods, which means that the product hasn't been processed, or has been slightly processed.  For example, instead of cold cuts you could get raw meat, fresh vegetables in place of store-made salads and coleslaws, and the best way to get bread is to bake it yourself or find a trustworthy bakery.
  • And the most important thing: don't try to buy the cheapest thing available. Price not always goes in pair with quality, but it's worth taking a note of the fact that quality is pricey. For example, you won't get a good cold cut for 12 PLN, because that's how much a kilogram of raw meat costs... If you buy such a cheap ham, you can rest assured, it's going to be mainly cheap fillers...