Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Do you know what you're eating?

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Do you know what's in the food you're eating?Photo / Thinkstock
Do you know what's in the food you're eating?Photo / Thinkstock

Thanks to Europe's well-publicised horsemeat scandal we'll never look at lasagne or spaghetti bolognaise in the same way again.

And now, following the unveiling of the world's first lab-grown meat patty, the humble burger must also be viewed with suspicion.

(Learn more in the video below:)

But, as it turns out, the duplicity in our food supply stretches far wider than most of us ever imagined. All sorts of common (and not so common) foods aren't quite what they purport to be.

Food fraud: 10 counterfeit products we commonly consume says, "Coffee, olive oil and fish are just some of the adulterated and intentionally mislabelled foods regularly passed off as something they're not." The US-based article also mentions orange juice spiked with additives, honey tainted with antibiotics and pomegranate juice boosted with grape or pear juice.

Evidently, "most commercial truffle oils are created by mixing olive oil with a synthetic petroleum-based flavo[u]ring agent" and blueberries (as ingredients in processed products) are frequently faked even by mainstream providers such as Kellogg's and Betty Crocker. It's difficult to know who to trust these days.

The problem of imitation food products is further explored in The dark side of 5 fake foods which lists "ersatz foods born in the test-tube and adopted by the masses" such as: fake whipped cream, fake butter, processed cheese, sugar "wannabes" and fake crabmeat aka surimi.

It also draws our attention to the website Beyond Meat and explains that "it's a highly processed affair and requires the use of natural resources to turn soy beans into counterfeit flesh". Beyond Meat, which is focused on "replacing animal protein with plant protein where doing so creates nutritional value at lower cost", offers "chicken-free strips" - perfect for use in recipes such as the Beyond Meat Grilled Chicken-Free BBQ Chicken Pizza and the Beyond Meat Classic Chicken-Free Salad.

The company founder was inspired by the question: "Would we continue to raise and eat animals in such staggering numbers if a delicious and perfect plant-based replication of meat existed?" In Can faux chicken - or any other meat substitute - win over committed carnivores?, The Independent reports that European-based website LikeMeat has developed its own vegan "meat" using plant proteins. LikeMeat "aims to enable small and medium sized enterprises to develop meat analogues with excellent texture, juiciness, appearance and aroma".

Fake meat is something of a conundrum for ethical, healthy eaters of today who are trying to make the best food choices. On one hand, fake meat presents the possibility of reducing the unhappy plight of intensively farmed animals such as chickens and pigs. But, on the other hand, it consists of a cocktail of complicated ingredients unlikely to appeal to anyone intent on minimising their consumption of processed foods.

Oh, and as for my own fake food vices? If I have people around at short notice the easiest pudding ever is supermarket-bought brandy snaps each filled with a couple of generous squirts of Dairy Whip Lite (which at least is 50 per cent cream). And my weakness for (so called) crabsticks from the local fish-and-chip shop may have to be reassessed in light of the fact that surimi is comprised of minced "trash fish" and its distinctive red coating is often derived from "the crushed bodies of tiny beetles called cochineal that live in South America". I did not need to know that.

What's your perspective on counterfeit foods? Do you eat them? Do you have a guilty favourite?

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Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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