Many common grocery store items aren’t what they seem. From “tuna” that contains no tuna to “freshly squeezed” orange juice that’s been stored for months, food manufacturers have found clever ways to cut costs while claiming their products are something they’re not. Read on to discover the shocking truths behind 10 everyday foods that quite possibly are duping you.
Canned or Packaged Tuna Often Contains No Tuna
During an investigation, one company found that a whopping 21 out of the brands they checked contained no actual tuna. Instead of tuna, these cans were filled with a fish called escalar, also known as butterfish or oilfish. Japan banned escalar back in 1977, claiming it was too toxic. And they might have a point – escalar has been linked to concerning side effects like diarrhea and anal leakage. So how can you tell if canned tuna contains real tuna? Check the color and texture. If the “tuna” is an opaque, oily white, that’s a red flag it’s probably escalar, not tuna.
Fake Steaks Made with Meat Glue
Some restaurants use an adhesive called meat glue or transglutaminase to piece together small cuts of meat into a full steak, saving themselves money in the process. This risky practice raises bacteria concerns, since the meat is handled more. The origins of meat glue are also somewhat mysterious. Initially it contained blood plasma from cows or pigs, but now manufacturers just ferment bacteria to extract the necessary enzymes. So if you’re dining out and about to order a steak, ask if it contains meat glue. Your health and wallet may thank you later.
“Maple Syrup” That’s Mostly Flavored Sugar
That amber maple syrup you pour on your pancakes likely isn’t 100% pure maple syrup. Many commercial brands are basically just maple-flavored sugar syrups made with brown or white refined sugar boosted with some maple flavoring. And since these imposters lack maple syrup’s natural antioxidants, manufacturers add preservatives like sodium benzoate. So check the bottle next time you shop. Unless it’s marked 100% pure maple syrup, chances are it’s a maple-flavored knockoff.
Imitation Crab Meat is a Fish Frankenstein
Wonder why those crab sticks are so much cheaper than actual crab meat? That’s because imitation crab meat or surimi is essentially a fish hot dog – a mashup of various white fish scraps and starch, spruced up with crab flavoring, eggs, sugar, oil and preservatives. Sodium benzoate gets tossed in so your seafood salad lasts practically forever. And coloring gives it that fresh look. So while surimi might look and taste vaguely like crab, it’s a fish frankenstein creation. Now you know.
80% of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is Faked
True extra virgin olive oil is a sensory treat, with a fresh grassy aroma and lively flavor that tingles the back of your throat. But about 80% of the olive oil labeled “extra virgin” is not what it claims. Most are flavorless blends of cheap oils like canola heated to high temps during processing – the opposite of extra virgin’s cold press. These knockoffs lack nutrients and aren’t what’s stated on the label. So unless you’re grabbing olive oil in Italy under the watchful eyes of a small farm producer, chances are your oil isn’t as “extra virgin” as advertised.
That Parmesan Cheese Could Contain Wood Pulp
Most commercial parmesan cheese sold in the US is far from authentic Italian parmigiano-reggiano. Instead it’s usually a blend of cheaper cheeses like cheddar powdered with cellulose – aka wood pulp. Yes, the FDA green lights parmesan containing up to 20% cellulose – basically one-fifth wood in your cheese. Not exactly what you envisioned sprinkling on your pasta. Moral of the story, check that parm cheese label closely before shaking it on your spaghetti.
That Freshly Squeezed OJ is Up to A Year Old
“Freshly squeezed” orange juice conjures up images of fresh oranges being juiced daily. But in reality most commercial juices bask in massive tanks up to a year before getting packaged. To preserve flavor, oxygen is removed but then flavor packs are added back in afterwards to recreate that “fresh” taste and aroma. So while refreshing, that OJ may not be nearly as freshly squeezed as you imagined.
Instant Coffee Has More Carcinogens
While instant coffee provides a quick fix for many, its convenience comes with compromises. Some instant coffee contains unexpected ingredients like cereal, caramel and figs. And bad news for daily drinkers – instant has more than double the amount of the carcinogen acrylamide that brewed coffee does. So an occasional cup of instant might be fine, but it’s worth considering if it’s your go-to coffee.
Those Blueberries are Imposters
If you’ve bitten into a blueberry muffin or scone expecting juicy antioxidant-rich berries, you’ve likely been duped. Many baked goods feature faux blueberries – concoctions of sugar, hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, artificial flavors and blue dye designed to simply look like real berries. Check the ingredient list next time. If you spot blue dye, those blueberries are phonies.
White Chocolate Isn’t Really Chocolate
Here’s a twist – despite its creamy sweet flavor, white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate at all. Real chocolate contains cocoa solids, which white chocolate lacks. Instead it’s made of cocoa butter, sugar and milk. And since the FDA’s definition is loose, some brands swap cheaper hydrogenated fats for some of that precious cocoa butter. So check the label to see if what you’re biting into is the real deal or an imposter. Your tastebuds will thank you. Conclusion: What a wild ride through the duplicitous World of food manufacturing. But now that you know what’s really inside those everyday eats, you can make more informed choices about the foods you buy and consume. Vote with your dollars and read those labels carefully. Your health and taste buds will be glad you did!