10 Shocking Food Scandals that Dominated Headlines

by Rishika Jain4 months ago0 comments
Picture 10 Shocking Food Scandals that Dominated Headlines

You are not always eating the food you might think you are eating. You could have been eating horse meat advertised as beef or you might be eating beef-flavored french fries which you thought were vegetarian. The market is jam-packed with such scandals where food outlets serve you the opposite of what you ordered. These food scandals can be nightmarish, and it’s scary to think how and when you have consumed adulterated foods and what harm they might inflict on your health. Here are 10 shocking food scandals that dominated headlines.

1 In 1981, the outbreak of “Toxic Oil Syndrome” took place in Spain. The aniline ingested oil was sold as olive oil to all the street traders. The adulterated olive oil caused a violent allergic reaction which killed over 1,000 people. This was the deadliest foodborne illness disaster of the century.

The Spanish “Olive Oil” scandal was the mother of food scandals that broke out in 1981. The outbreak of “Toxic Oil Syndrome” took place in Spain when a chemical compound named “aniline,” which is often used to make dyes, plastics, and other industrial materials, was illegally sold as olive oil to street traders.

People started falling ill. The major symptoms ranged from lung failure, limb deformation, and disruption of the body’s immune system. The violent allergic reaction infected more than 20,000 people and killed over 1,000 people.

The incident became the deadliest foodborne illness disaster of the century. The scariest part was the precise biological trigger was never found, and the surviving victims were left with a poor quality of life and an incurable disease. (Source)

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2 In 2008, melamine was added to milk in China in an attempt to pass protein tests. The problem is melamine increases the likelihood of kidney problems like kidney stones. Due to this fraudulent activity, over 300,000 people fell ill and around 50,000 children were hospitalized with complaints of kidney stones. 

Milk Scandal
Empty milk and yogurt shelves in Carrefour in China. Image credit: Marc van der Chijs/Flickr.com via Wikimedia.org

Many companies water down milk to save money, but it’s also necessary to pass a protein test to make milk suitable for consumption. In 2008, a string of Chinese companies was adding melamine to their milk, which is a substance high in protein that allows the adulterated milk to pass protein tests. 

However, melamine is used to make fertilizer, concrete, and plastic and dramatically increases the likelihood of kidney problems like kidney stones or kidney failure. Over 22 Chinese dairy companies were adding melamine to their products, which caused massive outrage among customers.

Test samples revealed that the milk products carried up to 500 times the maximum allowable level of melamine. Over 20 people were convicted for the scandal, out of which two were even executed. The worst part of the scandal was that this fraudulent product killed six babies, hospitalized 50,000 children, and affected over 300,000 peoples’ health. (1, 2)

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3 Adulterated peanut butter caused a nationwide outbreak in the US between 2008 and 2009. The former CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America, Stewart Parnell, knowingly shipped salmonella-contaminated peanut butter to 46 US states. It was one of the most lethal and widespread outbreaks in US history, which killed nine and sickened over 700 people.

Peanut Butter
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, holds up a jar of peanut products while questioning Stewart Parnell, owner and president of the Peanut Corp. of America, at a salmonella hearing in 2009. Image credit: edition.cnn.com

In between 2008 to 2009, the salmonella-contaminated peanut butter scandal broke out when people started getting sick after eating peanut butter. The peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella.

Salmonella can cause serious infections in the urine, blood, joints, bones, or nervous system. It was one of the most lethal and widespread outbreaks in US history and killed nine and sickened over 700 US citizens across 46 states.

The driving force behind this scandal was the CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America, Stewart Parnell. He ordered re-tests of contaminated products when the initial tests showed salmonella contamination. He knowingly supplied salmonella-tainted peanut butter across 46 US states.

The outbreak prompted around 361 companies to recall 3,913 different products. Eventually, lawsuits were filed, and the former CEO of PCA is serving a long sentence in prison. (1, 2)

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4 During the 1980s, a horrible beef scandal occurred in Britain. The cows had been fed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy infected bone meal. Over 160 people died in the UK due to this fatal neurodegenerative disease known as “mad cow disease.” The epidemic and contaminated beef forced many countries to pose an outright ban on British beef.

Mad Cow Disease
Mad cow disease in humans can be fatal. Image credit: emedicinehealth.com

There have been many occurrences of mad cow disease cases in the UK during these past years, but none can be compared to the horrible beef scandal that happened back in the 1980s and 1990s. The cows had been fed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy infected bone meal. This fatal neurodegenerative disease has been named “mad cow disease.”

This disease is fatal to cows and infects their central nervous system. When humans eat contaminated beef, it attacks the brain and rapidly causes neurodegeneration resulting in dementia, memory loss, seizures, and coordination dysfunction.

The horrifying part of the disease is it leaves holes in the brain which are incurable. When the epidemic broke, many countries imposed an outright ban on British beef. Over 166 people in the UK died of contaminated beef. Around 4.4 million cattle were slaughtered to control the disease from spreading. (Source)

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5. Between 1946 and 1953, to study the effects of radiation, the US Atomic Energy Commission and Quaker Oats fed 73 mentally disabled children radiated oatmeal. Lawsuits were filed, but Quaker Oats contended that the level of radiation was compared to what the person might be exposed to in just one year. The civil rights of the children were violated, but Quaker Oats managed to stay in business.

Quaker Oats Scandal
Image credit: Calimedia/Shutterstock

A group of mentally disabled children unknowingly became unwitting participants in a food experiment. Between 1946 and 1953, a group of vulnerable children was served with radioactive oatmeal during a study conducted by the US Atomic Energy Commission and Quaker Oats. The children were simply told that they were being a part of a science club.

The experiment was conducted to prove that Quaker Oats consists of nutrients that can travel throughout the body. Lawsuits were filed, but Quaker Oats states that the level of radiation in the oatmeal was compared to what an average person might be exposed to in a year. The judgment declared that the civil rights of these children were violated.

Finally, in 1998, the lawsuits got settled. Quaker Oats and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paid a $1.85 million settlement. Surprisingly after such an immense scandal, Quaker Oats just paid its part of the settlement and moved on with its business. They just unethically used minors as guinea pigs and fed them radiated oatmeal without their consent. (Source)

Also Read:
10 Food-related Tragedies That May Surprise You

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