Crop bust raises concerns about garlic powder

In this photo taken Monday Jan. 18, 2016, a vendor arranges his bags of garlic in a vegetable wholesale market in Binzhou in east China’s Shandong province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chinatopix, CHINA OUT

QUEBEC — One of the world’s foremost experts on food fraud is warning about the possibility that garlic powder on store shelves including those in Canada may contain inferior ingredients.

Prof. Christopher Elliott, director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, is sounding a note of caution after noticing two trends he says don’t add up.

Garlic sales around the world so far this year are on pace with those last year, Elliott said, despite a particularly cold bout of weather that laid waste to vast tracts of garlic crops in China, which produces most of the world’s supply.

“Where’s all the garlic coming from?” Elliott said in an interview.

Elliott and other researchers are investigating garlic supply chains to determine whether garlic powder has been diluted with other products, such as talcum or chalk.

His suspicions about spices have been right before.

Last year, Elliott published a study that showed about a quarter of oregano sold in the U.K. and Ireland contained other products, including olive and myrtle leaves.

“It didn’t matter the price of the oregano — the very expensive oregano or the very cheap — the adulteration happened across the full spectrum,” he said in a keynote speech earlier this week at a global conference in Quebec City about food fraud.

There are common threads Elliott said he looks for when trying to uncover cases of food fraud.

“Has there been crop failures? Are there price wars going on in a particular commodity?” he said. “Currency fluctuations are another driving factor (and) political instability and corruption.”

He points to the recent furor over Brazil’s meat exports as one example. Several countries halted imports of Brazilian meat last month while investigators look into allegations that health inspectors allowed expired meat to be sold and covered it up in exchange for bribes.

Beyond the fact that customers may not be getting what they’re paying for, Elliott said there are safety concerns with food fraud. Hidden ingredients that are toxic can accumulate and harm one’s immune system. People with peanut allergies who are exposed to a product diluted with a peanut ingredient may risk death.

Another concern is the use of pesticides that some countries have banned, which have been found in some adulterated food, Elliott says.

Canada has a robust system to detect pesticides and other chemicals in order to make sure that they fall within acceptable limits established by Health Canada, said Aline Dimitri, the deputy chief food safety officer for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“We haven’t really seen any major deviations in the system that would make us worry,” she said.

Dimitri said the monitoring system randomly checks a wide range of foods for chemical residues, though it doesn’t capture the entire food market.

“This is our first line of defence to see if overall the food system is within the tolerance levels that are set for health and safety purposes.”

Just Posted

Christmas Wish Breakfast toy donations almost double

All toys donated Sunday will be given to the Red Deer Christmas Bureau and Red Deer Salvation Army

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Mothers Against Drunk Driving hold candlelight vigil

Four-and-a-half years ago Marilyn Rinas’ husband was killed in a collision with… Continue reading

Thousands expected at memorial for fallen police officer in Abbotsford, B.C.

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — The streets of Abbotsford, B.C., will be lined with… Continue reading

One person dead, five others injured in early-morning crash in Kingston, Ont.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A man who was checking the damage on his… Continue reading

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Semi collides with vehicle on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

Members of the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit dealt with a call on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

After 70 years, Red Deer veteran still remembers his traumatic war experience

Frank Krepps feels lucky to have survived the Second World War

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month