Matt Allwright presents this special edition of Fake Britain investigating food fraud in the UK, revealing problems in all kinds of produce, from fish and chips to takeaway pizza.
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Hello and welcome to a very special edition of Fake Britain.
By now, we're all familiar with the horsemeat scandal.
But Fake Britain has discovered that many other foods are being mis-sold,
mislabelled or mistaken for the real thing.
In fact, it turns out that food fakery is much more common
than you might think.
Today's programme is a menu full of fakes.
We have a fish dish that nearly killed a man.
Without instant medical assistance, I probably would have died.
A big-money ethical jam, where the main ingredient was fraud.
What people don't expect is that fruit described as "Suffolk"
is actually from China.
And when is a ham not a ham?
Well, when it's on top of some pizzas, apparently.
It seems we haven't been getting what we ordered at the takeaway.
-Is this actually ham on the pizza or is it...?
We eat 250 million portions of this every year.
Yes, it's fish and chips - the UK's number one favourite takeaway.
But this is the Fake Britain house, so it won't surprise you to know
that under the batter, not everything is as it seems.
When it comes to food, we all expect to get what we're paying for,
but now that the fakers have got hold of it,
even a good old plate of fish and chips isn't safe.
Stefano Mariani of Salford University conducted a survey
across Britain that shows just how widespread fish fakery has become.
In the UK, we found that 7%
of about 100 samples that we screened were mislabelled.
The cases of mislabelling are clearly making certain people rich.
Stefano's survey was one of the first to flag up that the UK
fish industry was being hit by fakery.
As ever, it's all about money.
Customers weren't getting what they asked for.
They were paying for cod - which is an expensive fish -
and they were being given something much cheaper.
Restaurants and pubs with fish on the menu now don't legally
have to specify which fish they are serving, but for Luke Marvell,
a visit to a pub that he used to work in
highlighted the dangers of not knowing what you're eating.
When I worked there, the fish was haddock and it was all hand-battered.
We chose to have that. It was good produce, and I had enjoyed it in the past.
It wasn't something that was completely new to me.
But unbeknownst to Luke, since he worked there,
the fish had been changed, and it was no longer haddock.
I instantly knew something was wrong within a mouthful.
There was an instant reaction and I just couldn't breathe.
My face began to itch and it went from there.
Luke's throat began to swell,
but because he had never had an experience like this before,
he had absolutely no idea what was wrong with him.
Yeah, at first, I just thought I was choking on a bit of food.
I got a glass of water and it didn't help, cos I couldn't swallow it.
It was kind of like a stinging sensation, like a stinging nettle.
That kind of sensation.
But yeah, all across my head, and my lips apparently went blue.
Luke had suffered a massive allergic reaction.
His friend called an ambulance,
and within 10 minutes of eating the fish,
he was on his way to hospital, where he was pumped
full of adrenaline to make the reactions subside.
It's anaphylactic shock, so without instant medical assistance,
I probably would have died.
Luke was soon referred to an allergy consultant to find out what it was
that he had reacted to so violently.
I went into the pub and asked what the fish was,
and they had to check and read it off the box, because they had no idea.
E-mailed the name to my allergy consultant,
because she had never heard of it either.
Luke found out that the name of the fish he had eaten was pangasius,
a cheaply-priced type of catfish from Vietnam.
Got a bit of the fish, took it into the hospital,
went through the system of putting little dabs on your arms,
and within ten seconds of it touching my skin, a lump came up on my arm,
so we kind of knew it was that.
British law states that customers should always be given what they ask for.
And with food allergies increasingly common,
it's clear the law is there for a good reason.
The pub hadn't done anything wrong.
They had just written "fish" on their menu.
But Luke Marvell didn't know he had an allergy to the fish he had eaten.
Worryingly, it seems that more and more of us are finding that
we aren't getting the fish we've asked for in chippies and restaurants.
Trading Standards teams across the country have found that
when customers have asked and paid for cod, they've sometimes
been given pangasius, which is half the price of cod.
And sometimes they've been given haddock,
which is also cheaper than cod.
Officers in Wales surveyed their local chippies.
Can I have a piece of cod, please?
I'm from Trading Standards.
They ordered cod from local restaurants and takeaways...
I'm from Trading Standards.
..and had the lab analyse what they had been sold.
The results were a surprise.
The overall results were that across all six authorities,
of the 42 samples, seven came back incorrectly,
which is around 16-17%.
If that level of fish fakery is the same right across the country,
hundreds of thousands of us are being deceived every week.
For Luke Marvell, it's a risk he's no longer prepared to take.
I occasionally eat fish and chips now,
but it's very much a case of, "I'll make it myself," so I know what's gone in it.
Maybe you're one of those people who avoids takeaway foods.
Perhaps your weekly shopping basket is a free range and organic bonanza.
The top end of the food chain has got its share of fake products too.
You may have been paying a huge mark-up for premium food that was nothing of the sort.
Food fraud, it would seem, is all around us.
Suffolk Trading Standards officer Clare Davies makes routine
inspections of food premises to ensure a level playing field amongst companies.
We visit manufacturers to find out whether the claims
they put on their packaging are accurate, that the food is fresh,
it's organic, or it might be origin claims, like the food is local.
On a visit to a farm shop, Clare came across a series of very
expensive jams, made by a company called Stonham Hedgerow.
She decided to investigate whether the claims made by the manufacturers were actually true.
This is the leaflet that we found displayed next to the jams on sale.
It makes various claims. So, for example, we've got,
"Made by hand in Suffolk from whole and fresh fruit,"
and inside, we've got a claim about the origin of the product.
So, here it says, "We use a range of East Anglian soft fruits in all
"the jams, so unusually, our strawberry jam is genuinely English."
But as Clare was about to find out,
that couldn't have been further from the truth.
When she visited the company, they admitted they were using some
frozen fruit, but a whole lot more fakery was about to emerge.
The company indicated they used another supplier in Suffolk.
Our food officers visit all companies in Suffolk,
so we were aware of this particular supplier.
We knew that they were a supplier of frozen and imported fruits.
That was a trigger for looking into it a little bit more.
Clare made test purchases.
Liaising with the supplier and using the batch number on the bottom of the jars,
she was able to trace the precise origin of each pot of jam.
She also went back through Stonham's fruit supply history to 2008.
She couldn't believe what she discovered.
The company hadn't actually sourced any fruit from Suffolk during that period.
We have a certificate of origin which shows that the strawberries in this
specific batch of jam that we were looking at originates from
the People's Republic of China.
We have a shipment of 2,400 cartons of frozen strawberries to the supplier,
and then part of that batch was then supplied to Stonham Hedgerow.
Stonham Hedgerow claimed it was selling "genuinely English" strawberry jam.
In reality, it was buying in frozen fruit from halfway around the world.
The company was selling fake jam.
Clare's investigation showed that since 2008,
the company had progressively sourced its fruit from further
and farther away from Suffolk.
The fruit was sourced from Essex and then further afield to Norfolk,
a bit further afield to Yorkshire, and then to Europe.
So the fruit was sourced from Poland, and then more recently,
the fruit was sourced from China.
The maths of the fakers' operation soon became clear.
Had the company used genuine, fresh, local fruit,
it would have cost over £50 for a 20-kilo batch.
In reality, during the period that Clare checked,
they were getting their fruit for a lot less.
What we're looking at here is a table which shows us fruit prices
and the corresponding origin of that fruit.
What we can see through the timeline is the fruit got cheaper as
the fruit was sourced from further afield.
Using frozen strawberries from Essex brought the cost down to £40.
From Norfolk, to £35.
The Suffolk fruit would have cost £50.
The company then went to Yorkshire,
and the frozen strawberries there came in at £30.
Finally, September 2010 to March '11, we have frozen strawberries
coming in from China, and the price was £1.27 a kilo.
So the cost of fruit has, you know, gone down to £25.
The company had halved their fruit costs by buying cheap,
frozen fruit from China.
But they were still charging consumers a small fortune for their fake premium jams.
£3.85, it's one of the most expensive jams we found in the market.
We went into a supermarket and picked up a jar of strawberry jam for, I think, about 69p.
In reality, you're probably not getting an awful lot more.
Fake origin claims were found with six varieties of the company's jam.
Stonham Hedgerow were in a sticky situation.
The company pleaded guilty to 12 charges of falsely
claiming its jams contained locally-sourced produce.
Not only were their strawberries from China, but their blackcurrants,
redcurrants and raspberries were actually from Poland.
Their fines and costs came to over £12,000.
They've since removed the description "Suffolk" from their ingredients list.
They are also no longer producing misleading literature.
Suffolk is known as a foodie destination.
What people don't expect is that fruit described as "Suffolk"
is actually from China.
The discovery of the fake food certainly seems to have had
an effect on the consumer. A recent Which? survey
found six out of ten people have changed their buying habits
since the horsemeat scandal started.
But, even the very top end of the market isn't free from fraud.
Trading Standards have uncovered major fakery amongst the most
supposedly ethical suppliers.
Eight out of ten UK households buy organic food.
And this husband and wife team saw that as a way to easy money.
Setting up a firm called Swaddles with this manager,
they went into the fake organic market, but with a twist.
They simply repackaged a range of ordinary foods
and charged premium organic prices for them.
Basically, they were buying in non-organic ingredients
and then passing them off as organic.
And over the five-year period that they were doing this,
we've calculated that the fraud is worth half-a-million pounds.
They boasted on their Swaddles website to be "organic, natural, and ethical."
Trading Standards got a warrant and moved in.
And they found that Swaddles was a swindle.
While our officers were there seizing evidence, lo and behold,
we have two deliveries from their main non-organic suppliers,
who came in their own-branded vehicles to deliver that very day.
But it was the paper trail that really shocked them.
We found that there were bagfuls of receipts
from their local Waitrose and a local Tesco store,
where they had quite clearly been going almost on a daily basis
and purchasing supplies from them.
The vast majority of those receipts showed
that they were purchasing non-organic produce.
Among all this was a vital receipt for a Waitrose salmon costing £20.
Swaddles then sold it on as organic for £51.
It was sent to a lab and provided vital evidence in court.
We had it analysed by the public analyst, and he found that
it was the artificial colour that was in there,
so we were satisfied that it was not an organic fish.
And the Swaddles scam wasn't just supplying food locally.
It went all the way to the top of the food chain.
Even Fortnum & Mason were deceived into buying Swaddles'
fake organic pies.
With the Royal Warrant over the shop, who knows who has been fooled?
Using lab analysis, Northampton Trading Standards set out to uncover
where the pork pies Swaddles were selling really came from.
They found a locally-produced pie that looked identical.
We had information that they were buying in pork pies from somewhere.
In a small village, they discovered an old family butchers making
delicious pork pies, but they weren't organic.
By analysis by our public analyst, who chemically analysed them,
he confirmed that they were the same pies too.
Chris Saul had no idea Swaddles were buying his pork pies
at £1.30 apiece and selling them on as organic for £2.50.
I'm amazed, and...
well, I find it pathetic, really, that they've got to go and do that.
So many people that are trying to fraudulently sell you stuff
that isn't what they say it is.
And, basically, the number of people that just don't know when enough money is enough.
People who buy organic food expect it to be organic, and rightly so.
It should be exactly what it says it is. This is just a complete con.
In the end, the case went from the kitchen to the courtroom.
The year-long investigation cost £60,000,
and all three were found guilty of fraudulent trading.
Neil Stansfield got 27 months in prison.
His wife, Kate, got 50 weeks in jail, suspended for two years.
And their manager got 40 weeks behind bars,
suspended for two years.
Are you sorry you lied? Any apologies for those you cheated?
No. No comment.
I think the sentence is appropriate for the type of crime that he's committed.
You know, it sends a clear message out to anyone in business
that this type of fraud won't be tolerated.
Anything for those you cheated?
So, selling organic pork that isn't can be disastrous for a business,
but as we'll now see, some products sold as ham have absolutely
no ham in them, organic or otherwise.
During their lifetime, the average Briton will consume 2,500 takeaways.
It's a fair bet that a big slice of those will be...pizza.
Surely there's no such thing as a fake pizza? Well, I've got one here.
You see, one of the most popular toppings for pizza is ham,
and we've discovered that ham isn't always ham.
Someone has been telling porkies.
These Derby Trading Standards officers are ordering pizza,
but it's not lunchtime.
Hi, can I order some pizzas, please?
Three ten-inch Hawaiian.
Thank you, bye now.
They're following up on some detective work they've been doing
on pizza toppings.
The team has discovered that takeaways in town were
offering ham pizzas on the menu which produced surprising results
when that ham was actually analysed.
I visited numerous establishments throughout Derby
and was purchasing pizzas which had toppings on described as ham.
We took ten samples,
and nine of those came back as turkey on the pizza rather than ham.
This is a product that many takeaways in the area were using -
not ham at all. It's turkey. Well, about 30% of it is.
The rest is mechanically recovered chicken and other ingredients.
We're now looking to go back to the premises that we visited
where we found the initial problems
and we will take formal samples and submit them to an analyst.
It's four months since the takeaways received their warnings,
and now it's time to revisit the offending restaurants to see
if they've cleaned up their act.
And that's why the team is ordering pizza. Now, it's time to collect.
-You go in first and just grab it and then we'll walk in.
My name's Paul King, I'm from Trading Standards. There's my identification.
Paul explains that they're there to check that what they're putting
on their menu is the same as what they're putting on their pizzas.
I can see that you've got the turkey next to your ham on the Hawaiian,
though obviously you would need to make it clear as well
it applies to the ham on the Napoli as well.
After their warning, this shop has made an attempt to comply
by putting a handwritten "turkey" sign on the menu.
But Gabrielle thinks there's still more they need to do
to comply fully with the law.
The issue is purely about describing things correctly.
Is that it, can I have a little look? Halal Turkey Julienne.
So really, what you should be describing it as
is exactly what it says there, Turkey Julienne.
They label and bag the pizzas, give one to the shop,
keep one for themselves and one will be sent to the public analyst.
Bye now, bye.
Onto the next shop. Perhaps this one will fare a bit better.
And is this actually ham that's on the pizza, or is it...?
Yeah, the word "ham" can only be used to describe pork.
Yeah, you're halal.
There's no problem with you having turkey and not serving ham,
but the problem is...
the way you describe it, exactly.
Like all the others, this shop is halal,
so they don't want to serve pork products.
But they still want their customers to believe
that they have it on their menu
because many of the top-selling pizzas have ham on them.
So they continue to label their pizzas as just that.
The team moves on to a third shop,
which has been warned in the past for serving fake ham.
I've got an order to collect. We're doing a formal sample.
And once again, Gabrielle and Paul find them
serving a turkey substitute instead of ham.
But the manager thinks he's got an excuse.
He claims the business has just changed hands,
and the new owners weren't aware of the situation.
So when did he take over ownership of the business?
The third week.
His co-worker thinks that having only been there for a few weeks
will get them off the hook.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened.
We were here in the summer and we bought pizzas,
that's why this is a formal sample. Yeah.
The reality is the name of the person on the wall,
on the public liability insurance,
has at least been there since October last year.
Out of the three pizza shops visited on the day,
only one has shown any signs of improvement,
and the other two appear to have ignored Trading Standards' warnings.
There were some businesses that we thought,
"They are listening to us," and actually,
it looks as if we may have been proved wrong.
But the situation did improve at two of the shops.
They subsequently labelled their toppings properly,
while the other one they visited,
well, that later went out of business.
MUSIC: "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
These British bees are busy pollinating flowers
and producing the 6,000 tonnes of honey
that the UK creates every year.
But consumers here eat five times more honey than our bees can make.
So we import huge amounts from across the world.
Because we can't produce enough honey to meet demand,
there's room for the fakers to move in.
This is the Trading Standards office at Worthing near Brighton in Sussex.
Like Trading Standards teams across the country,
they're getting used to seeing food fakery.
But one recent case they found in a local store surprised even them.
We basically found a variety of products on sale,
and one of these was this type of honey product here.
It's described as honey, but inside it looks like a syrup-based product,
and that's where our suspicions started off from.
Trading Standards did a test purchase of a jar
of the strange-looking honey, and decided to send it for analysis.
Worthing Council came, they just checked it and it wasn't right,
so they took it away from us.
The honey was sent for testing at this specialist lab in Worcester.
They have a variety of procedures designed to find out
exactly what's in any product that's sent to them.
There's a small sample of the supposed honey mixed in with
other materials in that tiny bottle, but it's
enough for the machine to analyse exactly which sugars it contains.
The amount of the various different sugars lets us know
whether it's a genuine honey or not.
And elsewhere, the honey was put under extreme magnification.
Chances are it should contain some of this...
If it was a heather honey I would have expected to have seen
heather pollen, but on this sample there's no pollen grains present.
And having spun, dipped and micro-analysed the honey,
they reached their conclusions about what was in the sample.
The analysis has shown that there's no honey present in the sample,
and it's most likely a sugar syrup.
With confirmation that it wasn't actually honey, Trading Standards
decided that they needed to seize all supplies of the fake spread.
They traced it to an East London importer
and took their van to take away whatever they could find.
When we entered the premises, we discovered over 1.1 tonnes
of the fake honey, which certainly filled our van on that occasion.
The company had imported the fake spread from the Middle East,
and there was a simple economic reason
why the manufacturer used syrup.
It's as little as a quarter of the price of quality honey.
When they described this product as honey,
they clearly knew it was a syrup-based product,
a cheaper version and an inferior product.
And this was where the syrup ended up.
It's a huge quantity, but it will all have to be destroyed.
The discovery meant bad news for any shop owner who had
unwittingly bought in supplies of the fake honey.
We lost money, and, you know,
we lost the reputation of the business as well.
And with all the syrup doing porridge in the Council building,
fakes are off the morning menu.
Let's hope we have made the breakfast tables of Worthing a safer place.
This is Rosie, and she is a free range chicken,
which means that she's got loads of room to scratch around outside.
It also means that her eggs are worth more than
if she was a caged bird and all cooped up.
That difference in price led to fakery
on a multi-million pound scale,
and more importantly, meant that thousands of us ended up
paying for something that we didn't actually get in our egg cup.
Welcome to the chicken run.
If you're one of these birds, the biggest moment of your life comes
when it's decided if you'll go to a free range farm with plenty of space
like this one, or become a caged hen laying eggs behind bars.
Some people still buy the caged hen eggs,
but con men have given themselves free range
to label them as something a bit classier.
Profit. Hard and fast. If you buy a free range egg, £3 a dozen.
A cage egg would cost you half that, and it's that extra profit
which drives the criminal element of the industry.
And it's our job to sniff these people out and to prosecute them.
The egg industry is under constant attack from fraudsters,
and Alistair and his team of investigators exposed
a massive multi-million pound fraud.
Keith Owen repackaged eggs from places like this and conned
top supermarkets into thinking they came from wide-open spaces.
He was found out when Alistair's team made a random visit
to a warehouse using some forensic technology.
Chickens can't talk but their eggs can tell a story.
What we have here is a batch of eggs which
I have selected at random from the packing centre.
Can we have the lights out, please? Thank you.
And we use this ultraviolet light
to detect the marks which are left on the eggs,
depending on... The marks depend on the type of cage
and the type of production unit which the eggs have been produced in.
When an egg is laid, the shell is wet, and the surface that the
egg lands on will leave an impression on the shell of the egg.
This line here is a typical mark which is left by an egg which is
laid in a cage environment as opposed to a free range or barn system.
With that evidence, someone else was going to be living behind bars.
Inspectors had unravelled what was then the largest ever fake food scam
in Britain, 108 million eggs had been re-labelled.
Owen was jailed for three years.
Today's inspection at this farm shows all is well,
but the owner is angry that several honest farmers
couldn't compete with the con man and went out of business.
I think the wake-up call,
the industry possibly could have been naive
to think that most people are honest and trustworthy
in every walk of life, but I think it did shock everybody,
that someone would have the pure brass and greed.
It's no different from rogue traders in the city.
You just get greedy, I assume.
If people aren't prepared to pay extra for free range or organic,
it is their right to actually be buying what it says on the tin,
and it's our job to ensure that that actually happens.
And that's all from this special edition of Fake Britain. Bye-bye.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Matt Allwright presents this special edition of Fake Britain investigating food fraud in the UK, revealing problems in all kinds of produce, from fish and chips to takeaway pizza. Plus, the high-end food fakery which saw supermarket food re-labelled as organic and sold at a premium; and frozen strawberries from China used to make exclusive and very expensive 'English strawberry jam'.