Food fraud cases growing, as well as safety warnings

Bob Cesca
food fraud, bad fish, FDA
food fraud, bad fish, FDA

There's a scene from the old John Candy movie Summer Rental in which Candy and his family order a dish called "Sully's Catch of the Day" at a seaside restaurant. The dish is advertised as being freshly caught, lightly breaded and sautéed grouper, but it turns out, it's just frozen fish sticks yanked from the grocery store.

For a while there, I kind of believed this was a rare thing and the stuff of cheap movie laughs, or part and parcel of the very obvious "bottled spring water is really just tap water" legend.

But it's actually getting to be serious business, gathered under the descriptive banner of "food fraud" -- a type of false advertising that appears to be evolving into a potentially dangerous and widespread crisis. Big enough, in fact, to warrant increased attention from the Food and Drug Administration. As much as 7% of our food supply isn't what it claims to be.

Recently, in a Summer Rental case gone horribly awry, a northern Virginia scam artist was caught selling to customers what they thought was pricey fresh fish, but instead turned out to be frozen catfish imported from Vietnam. 10 million pounds of it, all told. Until investigators stepped in, there was no convenient way of knowing whether the frozen fish was even edible, much less the correct species.