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You're not eating what you think you're eating

The last thing you want to hear as lift your morning cup of joe to your exhausted and grouchy lips is, “Do you know you are probably drinking roasted twigs?”

Counterfeit food is no joke and if you aren’t vigilant you could find yourself with a mouthful of wood, or worse. 

Coffee

Image: Getty Images/Blend Images RM

According to Larry Olmsted, author of Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do About It, everything from roasted corn to twigs and parchment can be found in your pre-ground coffee. Avoiding instant coffee is a good start to getting the real stuff and if you grind the beans yourself, you’re in an even better state. 

Tuna 

Image: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Reports of fake tuna are nothing new, but the fact that fish of different species are still being sold under the brand name tuna is alarming. A study by nonprofit group Oceana, conducted between 2010 and 2012, reveals less than 1% of US imported fish is inspected for fraud and 44% of all fish sold in the restaurants and grocery stores in the study (674 outlets on a national scale) were mislabeled as more desirable or expensive fish. The study reports 84% of white tuna sampled was actually escolar, which can cause digestive problems when consumed in large quantity. Fake fish can equal loose stools and lost wages ($25 billion annually as a country in 2015) for something that isn’t what you ordered. Your best bet against getting swindled is a restaurant, chef and/or fishmonger you trust. Remember: if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Parmesan cheese

Image: © 145/RACHEL HUSBAND/PHOTOGRAPHER’S CHOICE RF/OCEAN/CORBIS

This problem hasn’t been in the news for a few months but the cellulose (an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp) you unknowingly ingested might still be making you gag. Though the companies involved in the scandal reportedly were investigating further and pulling tainted cheese off the shelves at the time of the scandal, the best way to avoid fake cheese is getting a block of cheese and grating it yourself. Make sure it’s labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano” to get the stuff that’s really from the Parma/Reggio region of Italy, since Olmsted tells Mashable sometimes impostor cheese from other locales can be even pricier than the real deal.

Wasabi

You might get a runny nose and watery eyes from the fiery paste at your local sushi joint, but chances are it isn’t the real stuff. Wasabi is a root related to horseradish and while fresh wasabi is expensive and subtly flavored, the kick-in-the-pants stuff you’re used to on your spicy tuna roll is likely a hybrid of different mustard and horseradish pastes and green dye. Head to an upscale sushi joint and chances are the chef will grate it for you tableside. 

Kobe beef

Grilled Wagyu Kobe Beef

Olmsted says, “You can get the real thing [Kobe beef] here now but at less than 10 restaurants in the entire country, so it’s still a widespread lie.” Most likely, you’re eating Kobe style beef than actual beef imported from the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. Kobe beef only comes from Tajima cows raised in that part of Japan and Bon Appetit reports there is only enough of it imported annually to feed 77 hungry U.S. diners. You might not even be getting Wagyu beef (Kobe beef is a particular strain of the also highly prized Wagyu beef) if it’s under $20 an ounce. Look for high prices and a chef and/or server who knows exactly where the beef originates and is proud to brag about it. 

These are only a handful of the foods that are knocked off worldwide. Olmstead warns against fake olive oil, fortified wines and “high value white fish,” like red snapper. Do your due diligence so you’re sure what you order (or buy at the grocery store) for dinner is what you are actually eating.

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