In a world where it seems like nothing is off the table for scammers, a new trick has been revealed thanks to the work of modern science. Spanish Saffron, a highly sought after and one of the most expensive spices in the world, is typically hailed as the gold standard among saffron. It offers a superior variety and discerning individuals are willing to pay top dollar for the quality difference. Of course, new research has uncovered that when you buy “Saffron from Spain,” you might not really be buying saffron from Spain. This leads many to wonder, what fake products will they have next?
Realizing there was a problem with fake Spanish saffron circulating around the world, scientists from the Czech Republic and Spain collaborated to perform a detailed analysis on 44 different commercially available saffron products that claimed to be from Spain. They utilized a new scientific technique that actually analyzes the structure of the saffron and can come up with a “fingerprint” of sorts that helps point to its origins. Out of the 44 samples studied, they found that an alarming 26, over half, were actually not from Spain nor had they ever been processed there. This leads many to wonder if it is even worth paying the price in the first place.
Seemingly on the same note, it actually occurs more often than you might want to believe that so-called “organic” foods are actually not organically-grown. Instead, some of these companies might become certified by the regulating authority and then proceed to use non-organic pesticides or even genetically modified crops to help with production. This results simply because there is a limit to how much oversight there can really be on these farms. In fact, not that long ago there was a big issue with fake organic foods shipping from China.
While these foods are certainly alarming, it is quite disturbing just how specific this trick with saffron is. It may lead you to wonder where anything really comes from. Is a product that says it is made in the USA really made in the states or is it just shipped in from China? Similarly, can you really trust that eBay seller that claims to have an authentic collector’s item? With forgery a somewhat common occurrence today, it really makes the cynics look like they are onto something.
Some political activists might have a seemingly brilliant solution to this issue: stack on some extra regulations to ensure all saffron passes quality standards. Unfortunately, this is really not an effective way to combat these sorts of fake products. Why not? Most obviously, because this is dealing with international products. The sort of regulation that would be required to deal with this would mean setting up a sort of international governing body that could oversee everything. Not to mention, there are already heavy regulations and certification requirements on other fake products like the aforementioned organic food and that still slips through the cracks.
With over 7 billion people in the world, it comes down to the simple reality that no amount of regulation or money thrown at the problem will solve it. Instead, consumers need to find ways to perform their due diligence, and when a product is discovered to be fraudulent, they need to share that information as much as possible.