food politics

Is There Any Way to Avoid Food Fraud?

Is your olive oil really extra virgin? (Probably not.) Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

This week, New York published a massive guide to conscientious eating. The takeaway: It’s extremely difficult to eat food that doesn’t in some way wreak havoc on the environment, or your body, or some poor animal that has no idea its ultimate destination is your dinner plate. Even critic Adam Platt wondered whether it’s possible to eat anything at all that isn’t in some way bad.

As if all of that weren’t grim enough, this week also saw the release of a book called Real Food Fake Food, wherein journalist Larry Olmsted lays out his argument for why “you don’t know what you’re eating.” He makes a compelling case. The “extra virgin” olive oil in your grocery store? It’s almost certainly something else. The “Kobe” beef you just paid hundreds of dollars to eat for dinner? Not the real deal. And, of course, there’s packaged Parmesan cheese that’s cut with filler like cellulose (a.k.a. the dreaded “wood pulp”).

Food fraud is so pervasive, it seems, that it can leave anyone wondering: Just what in the hell are you supposed to eat? To help answer that question, Platt and Grub editor Alan Sytsma sat down to lunch with Olmsted to get his take on things in this week’s episode of the Grub Street Podcast. Download it on iTunes, or if you’d prefer to be terrified immediately, listen to it right here:

Is There Any Way to Avoid Food Fraud?