From olive oil that has been cut with cheaper ingredients to honey infused with banned antibiotics and ground coffee contaminated with corn and sawdust, the food you eat is ripe for fraud. Not only that, but it's costing consumers $30 billion to $40 billion a year worldwide, according to Michigan State University's Food Fraud Initiative.
The problem is only getting worse, highlighted by the woes of ice-cream maker Blue Bell Creameries. The Brenham, Texas-based company agreed to an $850,000 fine after its product was found to contain harmful bacteria.
"We have worked closely with the State of Texas Department of Health Services to ensure the safety of our products. We are pleased with the steps that have been taken in our facilities and confident that we are producing safe products that our customers can enjoy," Blue Bell wrote in a statement e-mailed to CNBC last month.
"The thing with food fraud is we don't know what's in there and we don't know what the processes is the bad guys used, the criminals, the fraudsters used to manufacture the product," John Spink, the director of Michigan State University Food Fraud Initiative told CNBC's On The Money in a recent interview. "So, there is always a vulnerability even if there is not an actual threat."
Food tampering "tends to be high-value items that you cannot easily discern with the naked eye," said Larry Olmsted, author of "Real Food, Fake Food."
Not only can food fraud hurt consumers' wallets, it can also make them sick.
"The best-case scenario with food fraud is that you're not getting what you paid for. You know, the worst-case scenario is that consumers become ill and sometimes have died from food fraud," said Karen Everstine, a scientific liaison at U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), based in Rockville, Maryland. USP is a nonprofit that sets standards for foods and medicines.