(Toledo News Now) – Law enforcement officials have been fighting against counterfeiters for years, but the criminals are taking to a new market that has police scrambling to keep up.
Officials say in addition to counterfeit handbags, watches and electronics, crooks are now counterfeiting food items.
"We think we're buying a high value or specific type of product and the bad guys have swapped it out with something that's inferior," said John Spink, Associate Director of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program Michigan State University.
In a recent study, Dr. Spink crunched the numbers using a new database and revealed the top counterfeited foods. Sixteen percent involved olive oil, often diluted with cheaper oils. Fourteen percent involved milk found to be watered down. Seven percent was honey adulterated with sugar and corn syrups. Fruit juice accounted for between two to four percent of cases, often watered down or diluted with other types of juice.
While buying fake food times is a waste of money, it can also be a health hazard.
"The bad guys aren't following good manufacturing practices. There's such a risk for contamination that can be very lethal," said Spink.
In the most recent example, a group of English college students suffered permanent eye damage after consuming vodka which contained methanol.
Even with a database of commonly counterfeited foods, Spink says it is difficult for law enforcement to keep up with these types of criminals because the business is always growing.
"There are not ten of these bad guys in the world and we can go arrest 8 of them. There are a near infinite number of fraudsters and there's a near infinite type of fraud," said Spink.
Experts say anyone who suspects a food item may be counterfeit should contact the local health department immediately.
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