These Fancy Foods are Frauds (Infographic)

I have some advice you’ve probably never heard: don’t believe everything you eat. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to after checking out our latest infographic, which reveals the truth behind some common gourmet food. It turns out marketers mislabel their so-called cuisine and then charge a premium for it. While I knew a bit about the Champagne scheme, Kobe beef and olive oil are quite the shockers.

Good frugal sense will tell you to approach spendy purchases with thoughtful hesitation, but, in this case, that seems easier said than done. The fact of the matter is, unless a product is truly transparent about its contents (not especially easy to determine), you could be wasting your money on overpriced cons. For many Americans, that’s going to be hard to swallow! Check out the graphic below, and let us know what other food frauds we should keep in mind!

these fancy foods are frauds infographic


  1. So, how can you tell what type of Olive Oil you’re really getting? I have a bottle on hand “Filippo Berio” brand, and it says all natural, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil for dressing and marinating, packed in Italy with select high quality extra virgin olive oils from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Tunisia.

    How do I know it’s not industrial grade oil as shown above in the infographic?

    • Please do some deeper homework. When you truly investigate the science behind oils, you’ll find that cooking with coconut oil (yes, coconut oil) is preferred over any veg or olive oil. A good olive oil should be used for salads. The beneficilal effects of a medium chain fatty acid that coconut oil is, goes behond good taste. And no, you won’t taste coconut in your cooking.

      • I never fry with Olive oil. I have grown up in an Italian household and this “Frying in Olive OIl ” is totally false. With the cost of Olive oil growing up, olive oil in any kitchen was considered a luxury item. Therefore, never used to fry. Also, the chemical compositiion of olive oil changes ( I can’t remember exactly at what temperature off hand), and can be quite tricky to fry in as it will turn your food acidic if not handled correctly.
        I have always used Sunflower oil to fry. I have travelled all over Italy and have seen this used to fry in many kitchens. It is a very good alternative and doesn’t leave an oily residue on your foods.
        I have experiemented with Coconut oil. Not a bad alternative for frying if you must for health reasons and concerns. I am not against it but moderation is key to good health. I use this philosphy each and every day. Grazie. Barbara

  2. Aren’t we just playing semantics here? I mean, the extra virgin oil is going to be better than the virgin oil. So I get the extra virgin. I just want a better oil, not the best.

  3. This is the most beautiful blog post I’ve ever seen!

    Yes, I read the book on olive oil and just paid $20 for a small bottle made by a local farmer. I think this is the way of the future for me.

  4. I knew about champagne, but not about kobe beef or the olive oil thing. I live in Europe so the labelling standards are very strict – champagne has to come from Champagne, and olive oil has to be correctly labelled or there are huge fines. It’s not good that they can sell these things mislabelled in the US!

  5. I get quite annoyed at items such as this that quote prices without a mention of size or amount. For example, how can one compare bottles of Olive oil against “Avg price of $35”? What does this even mean? $35 for what? Quarts? Pints? Gallons? Other than that, it seems to me we can avoid this issue for ourselves by only buying oil actually made where the labeling standards are adhered to.

  6. Yea – Extra Virgin Olive Oil is one of the main culprits. All the popular ones like Berio, Bertolli, etc are really mixed oils passed off as true extra virgin. Most of the true oils are imported anyway and therefore a lot more expensive.

  7. One bottle I have says “contains 100% extra virgin olive oil”. That’s a particularly deceptive choice of words. Notice the word “contains”. So there could be 10% good stuff and 90% motor oil in there.

  8. Thank you for your recent note, but your website and mine are on somewhat different topics. As a former journalist, I am research-oriented and will not publish anything unless I know the research behind it. All the best – NP

  9. Amusing blog post, alas not true.

    All champagne sold in the US is actually champagne from France – the trademark champagne applies worldwide and is enforced worldwide.

    Similarly, all extra virgin olive oil imported from Italy is just that, extra virgin olive oil. Just because something is imported doesn’t mean that it magically loses trademark and bradmark protection when the product enters the US.

    As a side note, nobody in their right mind would blend olive oil, which is relatively cheap to produce, with hazelnut oil, which is expensive to produce with a pronounced nutty flavour.

    What is a problem is fake olive oil. With the worldwide market for olive oil growing, production canot keep up. As a result, uncroupolous growers have used lower quality vegetable oils and blended these with olive oil.

    • As someone who is very allergic to all things nut related, that’s actually nice to hear. The last thing I need is “Oh, all those things you can’t eat? By the way, you can’t even use this oil.”

      Soooo… I’m going to go ahead and believe you Mr. Andrew posting person, to avoid future paranoia for something I already use all the time. 😀

  10. Wow! I learned so much about thee different product frauds. Your graphics are a great help!

  11. Another thing to add to the list: truffle oil. First, you can’t make truffle oil. It wouldn’t taste and would spoil. A chef can make a greasy sauce with truffle and use it immediately, but that’s something different.

    All truffle oil sold is actually plain olive oil with some petrochemicals. That’s right, stuff that comes with gasoline production. Just a tiny drop within health margins gives a flavour some people mistake for truffle. Especially if they’ve never had real truffle before, it really does not taste like truffle but like plastics. Truffle oil is a legal scam. It’s not dangerous to health and it’s not a protected. So in ordinary oil some drops of ‘gasoline’ are added and then it is sold for $$$.

    If you encounter a food speciality shop where truffle oil is sold just turn around. Go. Either they don’t know what they’re selling and may be scammed with other ‘genuine’ products too, or it’s them who try to scam you.

  12. ‘Gourmet’ and ‘premium’ should be added to that list too. They’re just B.S. marketing terms used as justification to may more more money for a product that doesn’t have those words printed on them.

  13. Sorry, but i just need 2 put this out there, i was reading all the comments on the “real olive oil” and the overpriced products you can buy,it´s just like a parallel world 4 me.
    I live in Portugal, and the “olive oil” here is the best in the world, but seriously, we get extra-virgin oil a 0,5L bottle for 10€ , circa 13$, and what you really have to watch for is the acidity levels ( <0,5%) meaning the process was done properly, and we use it for cooking, salads, everything!!
    As for the "olive oil market" expanding and not being able to keep up? lol? So you would just settle for whatever instead a nice quality product? Well.. just buy some transfat or something i guess its all the same.

    Same said about wines and champagne, i remember having an imported "Oporto wine" in NY a couple of years ago, it was pricey, and it tasted horrible, the i noticed the seal and on the label was not from the original Douro region and the association of Port wine producers,was a bit shocked.

  14. You are right there are a lot of fake extra virgin olive oils out there and also a lot of good ones. There is a great book called extra virginity that talks about the whole issue. Also UC Davis funded a study and found many oils that are labeled as Extra Virgin Olive Oil not to meet the standard of acidity level of .08% or less.

    The other thing they found in the UC Davis study was that most Americans were not familiar with what to look for in a good olive oil. In fact they did some kind of tasting test wher people were picking rancid old oils over fresh high quality ones. Apparently the consumer is so used to inferior oils that they are not able to appreciate a good olive oil when they find it. Good olive oil with high antioxidants will be a bit bitter and peppery. As the oil gets old on the shelves and oxidices, the acidity levels go up and the bitterness goes away. True that certain olive types like Arbequina are actually not as bitter , but have less antioxidants and shorter shelf life. Think about olive oil as espresso or beer. It takes a while to educate your palate and graduate to the slighter bitter coffee or beer, but when you get there you’ll be able to tell when you get the inferior quality versions.

    Here is a link to a great infographic about things you should know about Olive Oil in case you care to learn a bit more on Olive Oil.

  15. The main type of fat found in all kinds of olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). MUFAs are actually considered a healthy dietary fat. If your diet emphasizes unsaturated fats, such as MUFAs and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), instead of saturated fats and trans fats, you may gain certain health benefits. *”:”

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