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

Time is Muscle a successful fundraiser for Red Deer hospital

Event raises awareness about Central Alberta’s need for a cardiac catheterization lab

Students remember with posters, poems and essays

The Royal Canadian Legion awarded students in their annual Poster and Literary Contest

WATCH: More than $26,000 raised at Red Deer Coldest Night of the Year

It may not have legitimately been the coldest night of the year,… Continue reading

Two suffer serious injuries in collision near Blackfalds

Two people suffered serious injuries in a collision Saturday morning near Blackfalds.… Continue reading

Replay Red Deer Feb. 25: Relatives write letter criticizing Klaus killers’ sentence

Watch weekly news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

3 dead after tornado, flooding from central US storms

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Severe thunderstorms spawned a tornado that flattened homes in… Continue reading

Studies are increasingly clear: Uber, Lyft congest cities

BOSTON — One promise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft was… Continue reading

Students remember with posters, poems and essays

The Royal Canadian Legion awarded students in their annual Poster and Literary Contest

He loved ‘Black Panther’ comics as a kid – then Marvel asked him to write a novel for the movie

WASHINGTON - Jesse Holland grew up devouring Marvel comic books about Black… Continue reading

Two suffer serious injuries in collision near Blackfalds

Two people suffered serious injuries in a collision Saturday morning near Blackfalds.… Continue reading

WATCH: Top Biathletes descend on Red Deer

With the 2018 Winter Olympics wrapping up, some of the next generation… Continue reading

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