fake food

The Fake Food Scandal

When you hear the term “fake food”, what often comes to mind are the toys children receive along with their toy kitchen set; rubber hamburgers, apples, pieces of bread, etc. However, in America, we have a real fake food problem. Sounds ironic, but the fake food scandal is present among restaurants, grocery stores, college campuses and almost anywhere else food is sold. What is it exactly? Larry Olmstead, author of ‘Real Food, Fake Food” describes it as mislabeled or imposter food. The problem is not that fake food is unhealthier than real food. The problem is in fact that you are a) not getting what you pay for and b) fake food is often illegal.


Olmstead’s book provides many examples of food fraud; however, four of the most common include olive oil, fish and seafood, Parmesan cheese and honey. Parmesan is an easy example of fake food to understand. Similar to many other fake food scandals, including Kobe beef and champagne, Parmesan receives its name from its origin in Parma, Italy. In Parma, strict regulations go into making the authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. In fact, the cheese can only be considered true if it is made with just three ingredients. Finding Parmesan labelled in United States with only three ingredients is rare. While some may ask if real Parmesan really makes a difference, and to real food aficionados, the taste of real Parmesan is incredible. What to learn from Parmesan is not to label a similar product as the true name, but to consider the regulations that go into making the product first.


In the case of honey, the battle first begins with local honey producers and big name manufacturers. Mass produced honey often receives an ultra-filtration treatment which removes the pollen. Local producers claim this is no longer honey, however no regulations are in place and it is perfectly legal in the United States. The taste preference of the consumer ultimately decides the battle between local and mass produced honey. In addition, producers of honey in the United States grade their own honey without USDA regulation. This means any producer has the ability to claim their own honey meets a certain standard. The United States imports most of the supply of fake honey without knowing so. Many countries dilute their honey with corn syrup or other sugar solutions. The United States deems these mixtures illegal, however without testing; no one knows if this honey solution is indeed fake food.

Olive Oil

Similar to honey, Extra Virgin Olive Oil often does not contain what it advertises. Olive Oil remains the most frequented fake food in the world. In fact, the National Consumers League states that 6 of 11 olive oils are mislabeled. In addition, the New York Times found that 69% of olive oil labelled Extra Virgin do not meet standard. Manufacturers either cut with cheaper oils or do not use olive oil at all, just a mixture of cheap oils and chemicals to mask the flavor. Manufacturers can legally label this oil, “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy.” This deceives consumers to believe that Italy makes the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, while it is only imported to and shipped from Italy.


Another very common example of food fraud is fish and shellfish. When you order seafood such as lobster as a main dish, you can clearly see that the food presented to you is what you ordered. However, in the case of lobster bisque, crab cakes and sushi, this is often not the case. Manufacturers often blend lobster and crab with a cheaper seafood option as to keep cost down while growing profit. Same is true with sushi. Whitefish will often replace tuna in the very common tuna roll. With allergies so common among seafood, fake food in this category can be dangerous.

How to Stop Fake Food

In some cases, stopping food fraud is hard for the consumer. Often with mislabeled foods, restaurants will prepare dishes with a different ingredient than they thought. However, restaurants can do their part in preventing fake food. Especially with honey, experts suggest buying from your local farmers. A simple solution is to check labels. In the case of olive oil, checking the label for “made in” or “grown in” will give you the answer about the origin of your olive oil. To be 100% sure about the validity of your food, do your research to check the validity of your product.

Fake food is a real issue in the United States that often goes unnoticed.  With proper investigation you can do your part to prevent fake food from happening. Real food is worth the difference. It’s time to end the fake food scandal.


Mother's Day family

Dining Out on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday and restaurants everywhere will fill with families celebrating mom. In fact, almost half of all Americans will dine out on this holiday. To stay ahead of the competition, as well as the crowd, consider these ideas when serving Mother’s day customers.

Mother’s Day Foods

For families with children, offer many options for your diners. Remember that Mother’s Day tends to be a family outing as opposed to a date night, so meals catered towards children should be on your menu. For mom, plan something special. According to the National Restaurant Association, moms splurge on Mother’s Day. The most frequently ordered dinner is seafood. In addition, since Mother’s Day always falls on a Sunday, many will celebrate with brunch after church. Add to your breakfast or lunch menu specials including stuffed French toast, steak or crab cakes. Moms will certainly be more willing to indulge in these items during her special day. Offer take-out options as well. Many families may want to enjoy time together at home without having to cook.

Mother’s Day SpecialsMother's Day Dessert

To entice customers to your restaurant to celebrate, offer deals and specials. Often, restaurants will promote Mother’s Day with a discount for mom. Restaurants can also attract customers by offering a free desert or add-on item for moms. Try a creative approach by offering not just delicious food, but give each mom a flower such as a carnation as a thank you for coming. To ensure your Mother’s Day customers will return again, give mom a coupon for her next visit. A coupon is a great way to show your appreciations while retaining loyalty to your restaurant.

Mother’s Day is a day families love to get together and eat. This year, celebrate mom with great specials, discounts or offers at your restaurant. Offer mom delicious food for all meals and give her an option for splurging. Whether you say “thank you for being a mom” or offer a discount, be sure to show moms everywhere that you care on Mother’s Day.

Serving Meat-Free Lent Meals

Although not a holiday, Lent brings major changes to the restaurant industry. During this 40 day period, menus see an increasing amount of fish and seafood. Lent is the period observed before Easter, where Catholics and many Protestants follow restrictive diets. During this time many “give up” foods such as chocolate or junk food, these are up to the individual. The practices started to honor Christ and experience suffering, just as Jesus suffered for his people. In addition, many Christians practice the act of not eating meat on all Friday. Without meat, Lenten Fridays have been deemed as Fish Friday.

Lent Menu Options

Especially as we transition into warmer weather, many fresh inspired dishes include fish. With a variety of fish to choose from, the options are almost endless. Smoked salmon and almond crusted tilapia are very popular among consumers. Also consider a seafood twist on common meat dishes. Try a seafood lasagna or a shrimp pad Thai to allow customers to order their comfort dishes without the meat. Vegetarian meals are another option for those foregoing meat. As vegetables increase in popularity, so do vegetarian dishes. Portabella burgers, falafel and ratatouille are just a few dishes to highlight as a vegetarian entrée.

For those who do not want to change their menu for the Lenten season, consider only highlighting these dishes on Friday. Create specials for Friday nights that do not contain meat. Consider using key words to describe your meatless dishes in order to attract all customers. Words like “organic” and “natural” appeal to most everyone in 2017. When purchasing fish and seafood, locally sourced seafood will entice any trendsetter, regardless of their Lenten practices. Using organic and natural produce will have the same effect on customers.

With these approaches, the menu contains trendy and enticing dishes for both the meat eaters and Lent observers. When your menu includes meatless dishes that taste delicious, everyone will enjoy these options. Remember to market these dishes to both the Lenten observers and those not following dietary restrictions. In addition, those restraining from meat from Lent will only do so on Fridays, so make sure to keep plenty of traditional meat dishes on the menu. When your restaurant includes trendy meat-free meals, customers will return with the satisfaction of knowing you can provide for their dietary needs.