Skip to main content

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Food Adulteration and Food Fraud

What do we really know about the food we eat? A firestorm of recent food-fraud cases, from the US honey-laundering scandal to the forty-year-old frozen “zombie” meat smuggled into China, to horse-meat episodes in the United Kingdom, suggests fraudulent and intentional acts of food adulteration are on the rise. While often harmless, some incidents have resulted in serious public health consequences. At the heart of these dubious practices are everyone from large food processors to small-time criminals, while many consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about this malfeasance.
In this book, Jonathan Rees examines the complex causes and surprising effects of adulteration and fraud across the global food chain. Covering comestibles of all kinds from around the globe, Rees describes the different types of contamination, the role and effectiveness of government regulation, and our willingness to ignore deception if the groceries we purchase are cheap or convenient. Pithy, punchy, and cogent, Food Adulteration and Food Fraud offers important insight into this vital problem of human consumption.

176 pages | 4 3/4 x 7 3/4

Food Controversies

Economics and Business:

Food and Gastronomy

Reaktion Books image

View all books from Reaktion Books


“Rees’s account of the journeys of some food to the shop encompasses horse meat in the United Kingdom, honey‑laundering in the United States and forty‑year‑old zombie meat in China. It speaks of hidden crimes by large food processors and small‑time criminals.”

New Scientist

"The difficulty, as Rees clearly sets out, is that many food adulterations are welcomed by consumers if the price goes down. And, as long as the ingredients are fully listed, then it's not technically illegal. But where to draw the line? An academic historian, Rees brings a historical perspective to the subject. He points out that while global trade isn't new, supply chains have never been more complex and one way manufacturers tackle this growing distance from consumers is by creating fictional chef mascots to engender trust in processed products. Spoiler: Mr Kipling, Betty Crocker, and Captain Birdseye never existed. Rees provides plentiful factoids in an admirably compact book."

Morning Star

“Readers owe a debt of gratitude to Rees for explaining the complexities and ongoing difficulties of adulterated food and fraudulent claims. The problems may be timeless, but, as this book shows, the responses are ever evolving, culturally dependent, and worth more attention.”

Benjamin R. Cohen, author of "Pure Adulteration: Cheating on Nature in the Age of Manufactured Food"

"This book is many things: a taxonomy of food fraud and adulteration around the world, a history of efforts to detect and eradicate it, and a lucid investigation of why it’s so tricky to define what counts as 'fake food' in an age of food science and industrial production. As debates about GMOs, chemical additives, mislabeled 'olive' oil, and dairy-free 'milk' rage on, this timely volume is a valuable primer that cuts through the murk and rhetoric, and untangles the historical, cultural, and economic forces shaping how our food is made, regulated, and sold. Rees has produced a necessary guide for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the modern food system and the difficulties in policing it."

Nadia Berenstein, PhD, writer and historian

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Matter of Trust

1 Partial Substitutions
2 Tainted Foods
3 Counterfeit Foods and Complete Substitutions
4 The Importance of Place
5 Testing
6 Policy, Strategy and Legislation

Conclusion: Adulteration and Culture

Notes on Sources and Select Bibliography

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press