Fake inspectors a problem in India too

It’s not just the greater Atlanta-area where wannabies are trying to trade on the rock-star status of public health inspectors.

In India, the Oshiwara police have arrested two men for allegedly posing as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials and trying to extort Rs 50,000 from a bakery in the area.

Police officers said the incident took place on Friday afternoon when four men entered the bakery shop on SV Road in Jogeshwari West and complained about the quality of food. They told the owner of the bakery that they were officers from FDA and had been getting complaints from its customers about the inferior quality of products.

They demanded Rs 50,000 from him to shut the case and not seize his shop and goods in it. Sensing foul play, the owner asked them to show him their identification cards.

The men presented their ID cards, but the owner found them suspicious. He immediately alerted the police patrolling the area. On the arrival of the police, two of the fake FDA officers managed to flee, while the other two were nabbed and arrested.

How to tell if the food inspector is a fake

Restaurants in British Columbia (that’s in Canada) are being warned to watch for scammers who pose as health inspectors.

The phoney inspectors sometimes threaten fines for failing to schedule inspections.

That’s a warning sign, according to health authority officials, because inspections are nearly always unannounced, not scheduled.

If inspections are being scheduled, it’s probably a food safety auditor – zing.

The fraudsters try to extract detailed business and personal information from the restaurant operator for the purposes of identity theft, apparently for use in circumventing Craigslist’s security settings.

Tim Shum, Fraser Health’s regional director of health protection, said restaurants should ask to see the photo ID of anyone coming to their premises claiming to be an inspector.

Top 5 American counterfeit foods

Elizabeth Weise of USA Today writes that foods masquerading as something else — a more nutritious something else — have been big news in the past two years.

Chinese food companies in particular have been blamed for making deadly alterations to dairy, baby and pet foods by adding melamine. The chemical makes it appear that the food or beverage has the required level of protein.

But what about food producers in this country? What fraudulent foods do U.S. consumers have to fear from American companies?

Fish is the most frequently faked food Americans buy. In the business, it’s called "species adulteration" — selling a cheaper fish such as pen-raised Atlantic salmon as wild Alaska salmon.

Olive oil
This luxury oil, touted for its heart-health properties and taste, has become a gourmet must-have. Americans consumed about 575 million pounds of the silky stuff last year, according to the North American Olive Oil Association. Sixty-three percent was the higher-grade extra virgin, which comes from the first pressing of the olives. It’s also one of the most frequently counterfeited food products, says Martin Stutsman, the FDA’s consumer safety officer for edible oils.

An expensive natural product that’s mostly sugar, honey is easily faked. "If you can substitute a less expensive source of sugar for the expensive one, you can save some money and gain market share," says the FDA’s Stutsman.

A product of the tropics, vanilla pods can be soaked in milk or stored in sugar to impart a delicate vanilla scent to foods. More commonly, they’re soaked in alcohol that is then used as a flavoring.

Maple syrup
Maple syrup is another high-value item that can be adulterated. In these tough economic times, Vermont, the USA’s largest supplier to flapjacks everywhere, may up its testing programs.

But Quebec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup. And I am not from Quebec.

Fake vomit is serious business

The Seattle Times reports that a two-story brick warehouse on Chicago’s West Side is the world capital of fake vomit, where it’s still made the old-fashioned American way, ladle by ladle, formed and coagulated for the next generation of pranksters and troublemakers.

Helping put the ick in America since 1941, Fun Inc. is a repository of practical jokes, magic tricks and gag items — from chattering teeth to hot pepper gum, oversize sunglasses to oversize toothbrushes to oversize anything.

The story explains that in the 1960s, upward of 60,000 fake vomits were produced annually. These days, Fun Inc. brews up the recipe only a few times a year, making around 7,000 latex barfs annually, as tourist gift shops and joke stores look overseas for cheaper versions (though for $15 a dozen wholesale, Fun Inc.’s prank puke is still a heck of a deal).

The story says that fake vomit’s pop-cultural significance earned it a reference on "The Simpsons" during Season 4 in the "Last Exit to Springfield" episode. Nuclear plant owner Mr. Burns shuts off power to the city. When he turns it back on, production at Fake Vomit Inc. resumes. Mechanized fake vomit machine squirts; workers rejoice.

Although fake vomit is immersed deep enough in the pop-culture zeitgeist to warrant its own Wikipedia entry, its ambiguous history exists only in tales passed around factory floors.