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  1. Compliance & Enforcement (Food)

Economically Motivated Adulteration (Food Fraud)

How to Report Food Fraud

If you suspect possible food fraud, you can:

  1. Call the FDA consumer complaint coordinator for your state.
  2. Submit a MedWatch Online form. You can submit information about product quality, labeling, packaging, and other concerns related to food fraud.

Economically motivated adulteration (EMA) occurs when someone intentionally leaves out, takes out, or substitutes a valuable ingredient or part of a food. EMA also occurs when someone adds a substance to a food to make it appear better or of greater value. For example, when manufacturers add a cheaper vegetable oil to an expensive olive oil but sell the product as 100% olive oil, they are cheating their customers. We refer to this type of EMA as food fraud.

Food fraud is a common type of EMA that the FDA deals with, but EMA also occurs with other products, including animal food and cosmetics. Some types of EMA are also misbranding violations.

Estimating how frequently food fraud occurs or its exact economic impact can be hard because food fraud is designed to avoid detection. Outside estimates by experts have found that food fraud affects 1% of the global food industry at a cost of about $10-$15 billion a year, although some more recent expert estimates put the cost as high as $40 billion a year.

EMA isn’t just an economic issue, though. Depending on what is added, substituted, or left out, food fraud can lead to health issues, some major, and even death. Some examples include lead poisoning from adulterated spices and allergic reactions to a hidden, substituted ingredient that contains even just one food allergen.

We work on several fronts to protect consumers from the potential health risks and economic harm from food fraud.

Research Publications

Please go to our FDA Research Publications on Food Fraud page to see what our scientists have published on economically motivated adulteration in food.

Additional Resources


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