Book Report

Book Report: Real Food/Fake Food

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It

This read can very easily be classified as information you almost wish you didn’t know. Safe to say, unfortunately, that much of our food is on the fake side.

Ok, let’s dive into a few of the details…

The first example of this well-researched book was regarding Parmasean cheese. There are extremely high standards, where this cheese is produced – Parma, Italy. They have regulations on time from milking to cheesemaking (two hours), storage conditions and duration, type of grazing conditions, feed types, and who can label properly (those in Parma!). Fun space fact; it is the only cheese approved by NASA for flight.

Prosciutto di Parma translates to Ham of Parma. The same agency, Consorzio, labels authentic Prosciutto. It has just 4 ingredients; pork, salt, air, and time. Nothing else is allowed, even sugar or natural spices.

Compare to Kraft “Parmesan”:

Tests by Bloomberg showed that Kraft Parmesan contained almost 4 percent cellulose, a plant-derived polymer mainly used to make paper and paperboard. Other brands had cellulose content as high as 7.8 percent.

Kraft’s includes milk of unknown origin and purity, cellulose powder, potassium sorbate, and cheese cultures.
Ready to move to Parma yet?


The biggest cautionary tale from this book, to me, was in the seafood market. Quite simply, consumers must choose very carefully. The agencies we typically think to rely on are reported to be incapable of regulating the labeling of this globally, in supermarkets and restaurants. Escolar (aka “Ex-Lax fish”) can be labeled as tuna. Red snapper is also known to be fake as it is rare in numbers but frequently on menus.

Then. there is the farming:

“The problem is when you have carnivores like salmon. Then you are extracting wild fish from the ocean to feed to farmed fish, so you are still taking a lot of fish out of the ocean. The conversion rates are poor: it might take 10 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon [three to five pounds of wild-caught feed is more typical]. It’s a feedlot just like cattle and they use antibiotics. Salmon and shrimp farming are by far the worst.” A 2004 study of hundreds of farmed salmon samples from five leading countries found most so polluted with dioxins and PCBs that the author suggested people not eat it more than once a month. Unlike problematic shrimp and catfish from developing nations, some of the worst salmon performers were developed countries like Scotland and Norway.

And the scamming:

This is done by adding water and phosphates, inorganic chemicals, to boost their weight, since seafood is typically sold by the pound. In addition to charging consumers fifteen or eighteen bucks a pound for water, this also lowers the quality of the scallops. The phosphates help them absorb more water than they could naturally, and as much as 25 percent of the total weight—a quarter of what you are paying for—becomes water.

According to GRMI, dry scallops, sold for higher prices, can still be phosphate-soaked wet scallops. As long as they remain under 82 percent total moisture, they may legally be labeled “dry.” A spokesperson for GRMI told me that some suppliers intentionally add water until they get as close as possible to the legal limit while still selling dry scallops that are nearly one-fifth water at a premium price. By choice, I

You actually see this whitish liquid, like skim milk, pool in the pan, and the scallops are uniformly white throughout.
Larry Olmsted, Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know
Olive oil was reported as very susceptible to fraud as well. There can be blends with lower quality oils in many cases. I am a big fan of Costco, but their large Kirkland olive oils that we always bought in the fine print displayed that other oils may be added. Many times, canola oil since it is cheaper and has a higher smoke point. Canola is extremely unhealthy, as is discussed elsewhere on this site. I was very disappointed.
There were other slights of hand discussed, including wagyu beef, but the major takeaway from this reading was that the closer you source your food the less likely you will run into problems. Grass-fed meat, free-range chickens, and wild caught fish become much more important. I have been through much of this gauntlet trying to source our foods and would be happy to help you out!
This Book Report collection is meant to provide some of the best take-home points from the health and science genre I read. I will continue to go thru my notes of the 160+ and counting (as of January 2019) Kindle books I have on file. To view ALL the notes I saved on this one AND many others without a Book Report post yet, THAT IS ALSO SEARCHABLE, please click here.

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