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Adulterated and Misbranded Foods

Adulteration of food is a process where the quality of food in question is lowered through activities such as the addition of ingredients of poor quality or the extraction of the valuable ones (Johnson, 2014). In many cases when fraudulent business people add or substitute substances with cheaper ones, the process is intentional. However, it may occur as a result of chemical or biological processes. Crops can undergo adulteration process during growth, storage, processing, or transportation. Misbranding is the act of giving misleading information on a particular product fraudulently with the aim of convincing potential consumers to make choices (Johnson, 2014). This paper discusses these processes, the way consumers can detect these malpractices, the relevant laws concerning the adulteration and misbranding of food, and the methods to combat the problem.

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Adulterated foods contain adulterants that are either intentional, incidental or contaminants. Adulterants make food unsafe or injurious for consumption. Some producers may intentionally add substances such as injectable dyes, coloring agents, additional starch, or pepper oil to food to substitute its original components. Foods can also contain residues of the pesticides used during the growth period, droppings of rodents that occur during the storage period, or larvae of pests that invaded them during the growth or the storage of the product (Abhirami & Radha, 2015). The group of adulterants is deemed incidental if it occurs without any fraudulent intentions. Chemical industries produce pesticides that are used in the growth and the storage of the foods, and they may have metallic components such as lead. The chemicals may also find a way to the crops as a result of discharges from factories to the environment. Food is adulterated if the quality is affected by the addition of substances that are harmful to human health or the nutrition value is degraded by the substitution of substances (Abhirami & Radha, 2015). Manufacturers provide information about the nutrition composition of the foods they produce. In cases where they provide information that is false and does not represent the actual composition of the product, they harm the consumer. The product is termed as misbranded.

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Why and How Adulteration and Misbranding Occur with Examples

The high demand for various products and the push to make more profits is the driving force for fraudulent business people towards adulterated and misbranded products (Johnson, 2014). Some producers face competition in the market and lowering their prices to be on par with competition leads to adulteration. Most people living in developing countries cannot afford the products with the primary constituents as they are expensive (Johnson, 2014). The producers adulterate products with the aim of tapping the market through the provision of cheaper products. Some commonly adulterated products include dairy food commodities, meat, and related products, honey and olive oil. Dairy products involve milk and powdered milk. Namely, milk has been a target of adulteration in various parts of the world. Adulterants used in milk include water, salt, sugar, solid contents, neutralizers, and cheese whey (Abhirami & Radha, 2015). Powdered milk is adulterated through the addition of whey, starch, sodium hydroxide, maltodextrin, and sucrose. Meat and meat products are a target for adulteration as well (Premanandh, 2013). Minced meat is prepared using meat and carcasses of beef and pork. The commodities have high demand as well as a shorter shelf life hence, the need for mincing appears. Meat mincing or processing distorts the morphological characteristics of muscles making it difficult to identify the source (Premanandh, 2013). The effect provides manufacturers with opportunity substitute ingredients Minced meat can be substituted with soy protein that is cheaper than beef. The fraud also involves species substitution such as pork for sheep meat or horse meat for beef (Premanandh, 2013). Natural honey is expensive, and in most cases, it is adulterated with beet sugar, corn syrup, and cane sugar that are cheaper. Olive oil, especially virgin olive oil, is an expensive product. It is a vital element in producing vegetable oil since it has a fine aroma and enjoyable taste (Kartheek, Smith, Muthu & Manavalan, 2011).

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Sophisticated methods of detecting adulterants in products have been developed by researchers and governments across the world. Analytical techniques such as thermal analysis, chromatographic, and trace element methods are used to detect adulterants in honey (Kartheek, et al., 2011). NIR is also used in food testing, but it is expensive. FTIR has been used to detect adulterants in honey and olive oil. Various scientific methodologies have also been developed to detect specific adulterants in different products (Kartheek, et al., 2011). However, consumer education is essential for the detection of adulteration. Consumers play an important role by being keen on the ingredients of a particular product and being able to raise concerns with the relevant authorities for proper investigations.


In the United States, the safety of domestic and imported food is under the Food and Drug Administration agency (FDA) (Curtis, Steinberg, Parisi & Northcutt, 2013). The agency implements and enforces the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the fair packaging and labeling act. The agency conducts inspections on manufacturer’s plants, where food is processed, packaged, or stored (Curtis, et al., 2013). The agency draws its authority from the amended Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The law requires that foods should be safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled. The law prohibits acts that involve the introduction of adulterated and misbranded products into commerce, adulterating, and misbranding products or receiving and distribution of adulterated and misbranded food products in commerce. Under the FFDCA, food products are considered adulterated when they contain poisonous additives or deleterious substances that are harmful to health (Curtis, et al., 2013). Moreover, products that are processed, packaged, or stored under the poor sanitary conditions that can cause contamination and might be harmful to health are classified under the adulterated category. It is a criminal offense under FFDCA to introduce misbranded products into commerce in the US. Products are deemed misbranded if they contain misleading labels, imitate another product, and are offered for sale under a different name, deceptive packaging, or labeling. People who violate the FFCDA prohibitions on adulteration and misbranding face criminal and civil penalties that include fines or imprisonment (Curtis, et al., 2013). The act implies the detention of food in cases where the products have been grossly misbranded.

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Plans to Combat Adulterated and Misbranded Foods

The food industry should be more proactive in addressing the adulteration of food. Companies should focus on ways to counter global food adulteration practices (Spink & Moyer, 2011). Governments should collaborate in developing measures to combat threats through information sharing. Relevant information will ensure that proactive measures to combat emerging threats are put in place. Enforcing safety standards among the producers is essential in fighting adulterated products (Spink & Moyer, 2011). Such measures include a requirement for manufacturers to adhere to certain safety threshold in their production. The food safety modernization act is a positive step towards achieving food safety in the future (Spink & Moyer, 2011). The law requires that industries should have practices of identifying threats and developing plans to address them.

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In conclusion, adulterated and misbranded food is a threat to the health of consumers. While most of the people who tend to malpractice are profit-oriented, they do not know the impacts of the adulterated foods on consumers. The law prohibits such activities, and the culpable people have the risk of imprisonment or fines. Interventions by various players such as the government and manufacturers can combat this violation by enforcing security measures that are proactive. Moreover, educating consumers on the need to be vigilant is an important step towards dealing with the problem of adulterated and misbranded food.

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