Counterfeit food becoming a bigger problem

BALTIMORE (WMAR) - You know to be suspicious of counterfeit purses and counterfeit cash, but counterfeit food?

It's a growing threat.  When you fall victim to this crime, you could be putting your life in danger.

Finding food fakes is a constant battle for investigators across the world.  We found video shot by Interpol Police showing counterfeit products.  These candy bars, fish, cheeses and tomato sauce could end up here in the United States.  

Food and Drug Administration Agents are also on the hunt for phony food products and ingredients.  They seize everything from counterfeit olive oil and wine. 

Dr. John Spink, Associate Director of the Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program says, "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."

The problem is so big that a new national database was recently created to try to track it.  The key word here is "try" because it's hard to catch during production and shipping.

Once it makes it to market, consumers don't realize they've been ripped off, unless they get sick.

In a new study, Spink crunched the database numbers revealing the top counterfeited foods.

16% of counterfeited food cases involved olive oil.  In many cases, the oil was diluted.

14% involved milk found to be watered down.  

7% percent was honey adulterated with sugar and corn syrups.

Not only are you not getting what you paid for, it could be downright dangerous!

Spink says, "The bad guys aren't following good manufacturing practices. There's such a risk for contamination that can be very lethal."

The most recent case involved vodka laced with methanol which left some college students in England with permanent vision damage.

Many legitimate companies are now hiring security firms to monitor their products.

Tara Steketee of OPSEC security, says "We've unfortunately found counterfeits of pretty much any product that you can think of."

Something that just popped up recently.  Garden-variety tomato being marketed as the more expensive heirloom ones.

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