These Imposter Foods Aren’t What They Say They Are

There’s a lot of food out there that isn’t actually what it advertises itself to be. Luckily, many of these imposter foods have been outed by health professionals in the fight against fakes.

When you go to the store to buy your groceries, you don’t tend to question if the things you pick are really what they say there are. When you grab yourself some ground coffee or olive oil, you just assume that the product is exactly what you think it is. Why wouldn’t it be?

Unfortunately, while that’s how things should be, they don’t always work out that way. A lot of foods that you buy at the store or in a restaurant have more to them than meet the eye. Some of them contain additional ingredients you don’t know about, while others are complete fakes! It can be hard to know when things aren’t right, especially as companies are very smart about what they advertise on the labels. However, there’s no need to worry.

With food standards continuing to increase as the world becomes more health-conscious, we’re more educated than ever about these imposter foods. So, we know exactly what you should avoid next time you go shopping or out for dinner.

Bacon bits

Have you ever thought about sprinkling bacon bits on a salad to give it some added taste and texture? While that might seem like a great idea, you’d perhaps be better off using some real bacon strips rather than the chopped up alternative.

That’s because this product doesn’t actually contain what you think it does. The only trace of bacon here is in the flavor, a taste created by adding artificial flavoring to soy flour and canola oil. Anyone hoping for some meaty goodness definitely ought to look elsewhere, because you won’t find any of that in products like Bac’n Pieces.

White truffle oil

Truffles aren’t the cheapest food on the market. In fact, they’re one of the most expensive things you can buy. Apparently, white truffles cost around $1,000 per pound, an extravagant amount for one ingredient. It’s for that reason that the food isn’t actually used when making white truffle oil.

It would be far too costly to manufacture, so instead, the flavor is just mimicked through gases. It might seem deceiving, but given the price, we can certainly understand the reasoning. Imagine how much a bottle of white truffle oil would set you back if it genuinely contained this ingredient.

Red snapper

Unless you’ve spent your weekends fishing, you probably only have a general understanding of what each fish looks like. You could probably pick out a salmon or a red snapper based on their appearance, or at least what they look on the inside. However, it seems that you may have been misled this whole time.

Every time you’ve gone to get some red snapper, you may have actually been buying something completely different altogether. Apparently, 20% of the fish sold in the United States is intentionally mislabeled, with red snapper more often than not tilapia. That’s certainly not what you paid for!

Grouper

Red snapper isn’t the only fish that’s regularly mislabeled in the grocery store. Grouper is another species that is apparently commonly switched out for cheaper alternatives, including hake, Asian catfish, and – again – tilapia. DNA testing reportedly even found that one of these fish couldn’t be identified, a concerning result given this is food that’s being sold to the public.

The reason for selling mislabeled fish is typically down to money, with fish like tilapia easier to catch in big numbers. The more common a fish is in the oceans and lakes, the likelier it is that it’ll end up in your groceries.

White tuna

Of course, it’s not just grocery stores that try to deceive customers. Restaurants do it too, with plenty of sushi places guilty of swapping out their tuna. Oceana, a marine conservation group, found that all sushi establishments they investigated in New York were selling fake fish to the public.

These restaurants were giving out escolar in place of white tuna, a fish that you probably don’t to chow down on. After all, it has a reputation for leaving people with diarrhea for quite a long time. If you’re a fan of sushi, you might want to rethink where you go out for dinner.

Kobe beef

Kobe beef is an elite piece of meat that diners often think is worth every cent they paid. However, that’s usually because what they’re actually eating isn’t the real deal. There are apparently only eight restaurants in the whole of the US which provide their customers with genuine Kobe beef.

All the other establishments which have this meat on their menus are merely serving up a cheap alternative. If you’ve never tasted actual Kobe beef before, then you probably wouldn’t realize you’ve been duped. Unfortunately, given how pricey this meat is, you’ve likely been eating a fake for many years.

Parmesan cheese

Anyone who’s ever ordered a pasta dish in an Italian restaurant has probably been asked if they want parmesan shavings on their meal. It adds an extra texture to the dish and gives the food an extra kick. However, the chances are that you weren’t actually getting parmesan cheese grated on your plate.

There’s only one region in Italy that makes the stuff authentically, and it costs $1,000. The restaurant likely gave you a cheap alternative, and one that used the same anti-clumping ingredient that you get in wood pulp. Perhaps you should pass on the parmesan next time.

Mozzarella cheese

Parmesan isn’t the only cheese that people are being lied to about. Mozzarella is another one that’s attracted attention for being fraudulent, with the grocery store cheese containing the wrong kind of milk. Authentic mozzarella is made from buffalo milk, whereas the kind you find in the store is usually made from cow’s milk.

Again, this is down to costs, but also the fact that genuine mozzarella can only be made in one Italian region. If you’re ever traveling between Rome and Naples, you can stop off at a dairy and try the real stuff for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Ground coffee

Coffee is something a lot of people rely on to get through the day, so the idea that it’s been tampered with all this time is devastating. If you’re someone who buys ground coffee, then the chances are that it’s been cut with things like twigs or roasted ground parchment.

All sorts of cheaper substances have been found in this product, and it’s even worse with powdered coffee. This has been known to contain stuff like starch, figs, and chicory, meaning you’re probably better off buying actual coffee beans and grinding them up yourself. It sounds like it’s worth the extra effort.

Tea

Sadly, coffee isn’t the only hot beverage that’s been messed with. The situation is just as bad with tea, which has contained some questionable ingredients in the past. A study identified sawdust as a prevalent ingredient, as well as leaves from different plants.

These were apparently included to prevent the tea from expiring too quickly, but we’re not sure if that’s a worthwhile compromise. We’d rather buy tea with a shorter lifespan than one which contains sawdust! Again, it looks like you’ll have to go down the old fashioned route and make authentic tea yourself if you want to avoid these extra ingredients.

Dulce de leche

Anyone hoping to get caramel with their meal may well find they get dulce de leche instead. It’s usually sold in the US as an alternative to caramel, despite being a completely different thing. Whereas the latter is quick to make and done through heating up sugar, the former is an arduous process similar to creating things like apple butter.

If made authentically, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much sugar as caramel, and there are no traces of high-fructose corn syrup. So, if something tastes different about your dessert, that might be because you’re eating dulce de leche instead.

Wine

After spending all week working hard, it’s nice to chill out with a glass of wine or two. You’ve earned the chance to let your hair down and relax, and what better way to do that than with a nice bottle of white or red?

The only problem is that the wine in your glass might not actually be what you think it is – not entirely, anyway. Apparently, only 75% of most wines are made from the grape that’s on the label. That’s the lowest percentage they can be before winemakers have to reveal what other grapes were used in the drink.

Champagne

Unfortunately, it’s not just wine that has been deceiving us all this time. Champagne is another beverage that’s been fooling us, with apparently more than half of the supply in the States being fraudulent. Supposedly, you’re only allowed to call a drink Champagne if it’s been made in that specific part of France.

However, there are plenty of producers in the US which make sparkling wine and label it as Champagne. When these bottles are sold, there’s no mention of where they were produced. That leaves most of the public oblivious to the lies. We can’t say we’re not disappointed.

Wasabi

Wasabi is a paste that’s often found in sushi restaurants, but if you thought that it was authentic when you ate it, you might want to reconsider. Here in the States, wasabi is usually just horseradish that’s been dyed green. That’s because the plant this food comes from is challenging to grow and requires very specific conditions.

There are only a few places on Earth where it can be produced successfully, which is why most restaurants decide to mislead their customers instead. What’s more, although wasabi could be shipped over to the US, it’s apparently quick to lose its flavor.

Honey

Surprisingly, there isn’t currently much in the way of standards regarding honey. That means that producers have more freedom to put what they want into the product without facing the consequences. As a result, most of the honey you find in grocery stores has been diluted with things like high-fructose corn syrup.

This fills up the bottles easier and means that more of the product can be distributed. Unfortunately, while the makers benefit from this, the public suffers. Although this deception might not put you in harm’s way, it does mean you lose out on the great natural taste of honey.

Olive oil

If something’s rotten, it’s highly likely that you aren’t going to buy it. After all, if it’s passed its expiration date, then it’s not going to taste nice, and it may even make you ill. However, it seems that plenty of people buy rotten groceries every day because they’re purchasing olive oil.

Apparently, many bottles of the stuff are diluted with older batches of olive oil that have since gotten rotten. While that might seem disgusting, though, apparently buyers don’t mind. They’ve become so used to the taste that they now prefer it over fresh olive oil because it’s not as bitter.

Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is another product you should keep your eye out for, although not because it’s rotten. That’s because most bottles of the stuff in the grocery store are actually diluted with other oils. The problem with this is that these can be things like peanut oil, a substance capable of causing a reaction for anyone with a nut allergy.

The consequences of this could be severe, so it’s incredible that producers are still allowed to tamper with extra-virgin olive oil in this way. If you want to avoid this happening to you, we’d recommend always reading the label carefully.

Fruit juice

When you buy juice at the grocery store, you have no reason to doubt it’s anything but what it says it is. For instance, if you pick up a carton of orange juice, then that’s all that’s going to be in it, right? Unfortunately, that’s rarely ever the case.

It seems that these drinks cost different amounts to produce depending on what they’re made from. Apple juice is apparently one of the cheapest, which is why some of the more expensive beverages will be diluted with it. Things like blueberry juice may look the way you expect, but appearances can be deceiving.

Apple juice

Of course, what’s the big deal if these cartons contain some apple juice? If you’re a fan of the drink, then surely that can only be a good thing. While that would make sense, the reality isn’t quite so ideal. That’s because most of the apple juice that’s sold here isn’t actually produced in the States.

Instead, it comes from a Chinese-made concentrate, which isn’t always safe to drink. Tests have found things like pesticides in the juice before, and that’s not what you want to be putting into your body. So, essentially, that means that no juice is safe to drink.

Saffron

Do you know how much of a task it is to make saffron? Supposedly, to make a pound of the spice, you need 170,000 crocus sativus plants to hand. What’s more, these can only be picked for six weeks a year, meaning you’re very constrained for time.

It’s no wonder that the stuff can sell for $5,000. However, if it’s so challenging to get your hands on, how come we see people selling it all the time? The answer to that should be pretty obvious by now. The jar you have sitting in your spice rack probably isn’t authentic saffron.

Dry spices

Saffron is hardly the only spice you’ve probably been deceived by. Plenty of these products are not quite as advertised, mainly because they contain more than you might think. For instance, traces of corn have been found in turmeric, while mashed up weeds have previously been identified in oregano.

Moreover, nutmeg is sometimes cut with pepper to save on money. So many of the spices you rely on for your meals aren’t as authentic as they seem – they’ve been fooling you all this time. Perhaps it’s time to pay closer inspection to their labels and see what they actually contain.

Soy sauce

Soy sauce is one of those condiments that a lot of people probably have stored away in their pantry. However, while you might enjoy the taste this adds to your meals, what you’re eating might not actually be the real deal.

That’s because it requires a lot more work to make than producers are usually willing to put in. It takes two years for the sauce to ferment before it’s ready to sell, which is why most US bottles are made with cheaper alternatives. You might feel cheated by this, but do you actually know what authentic soy sauce even tastes like?

Lobster

Unless you plan on paying a lot for your meal, most people tend to avoid eating lobster when they go to a restaurant. Unfortunately, even those that do go all out and ask for the crustacean might not actually be dining on what they think they are.

Apparently, over a third of restaurants in the US use things like langostino or whiting in their dishes. So, while people might feel a sense of importance when they can afford to eat lobster, what they get served isn’t always what they asked for. You’d best save that money for something else next time.

Crab meat

If you ever buy something that supposedly contains crab meat, you might first want to check that what you’re eating is genuine. Rather than taking meat from these crustaceans, a lot of places use something referred to as imitation crab instead.

This is made of surimi – a fish paste – and various other flavorings. There’s no real crab involved anywhere, so this isn’t something to eat if you’re looking for a nutritious meal. This fake meat is typically found in crab sticks which are reshaped into legs to give off the impression they’re the real deal. However, we can assure you they’re not.

White chocolate

Everyone has their preferences when it comes to chocolate. Some people like it white, others dark, but most people opt for dairy. There’s no shame in liking what you want, but did you know that one of these flavors technically doesn’t count as chocolate?

To be defined as such, the product has to contain cocoa butter, something that you don’t find in the white variety. Thanks to this, it can’t technically be referred to as chocolate. However, the interference of the Food and Drug Administration means it can now use that name so long as it contains at least 20% cocoa butter.

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