Food Revelations That Make The Restaurant Industry Seem Pretty Bleak

food scandals

When you hear the word “scandal,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most folks, it probably conjures up thoughts of celebrity feuds and reality TV shows. We don’t blame you. Scandals are often portrayed as controversies between couples, companies, and former best friends. But when you love food as much as we do, nothing can tug at your heartstrings (and stomach) quite like food scandals.

These scandals usually involve secret ingredients, mislabeling, and a lot of angry consumers. Other situations revolve around problems like contamination and questionable practices. Either way, food scandals shouldn’t be taken lightly. Think about it: Manufactured food products are available to the masses. If a product contains hidden components, consumers will unknowingly eat these ingredients. This can pose a serious threat to public health, especially if allergens like nuts are involved.

In some cases, it’s just a matter of people simply wanting to know what the heck they are consuming, even if it’s safe.

The following food scandals have caused some of the biggest public outrages in food history.

Something tells us they’ll make you cringe, too. But hey, don’t let this deter you from ordering or buying food. Consider it as a reminder to pay attention to food news and product recalls. Your stomach will thank you!

1. Jimmy John’s CEO’s Animal Hunting Spree

The man just can’t stop hunting and killing endangered animals.

The sandwich shop that is occasionally in competition with Subway is facing its own bit of controversy. And Jimmy John’s CEO, Jimmy John Liautaud, is responsible for everything. According to Snopes, Liautaud routinely hunts large, rare, and endangered wildlife.

He seems to think of the animals as trophies, posing with their dead bodies and smiling.

Understandably, many people on the internet just can’t cope with Liautaud’s pastime. In fact, in April of 2019 when a picture of the sub chain’s CEO surfaced, Twitter users started circulating a BoycottJimmyJohns hashtag.

In the disturbing photo, Liautaud grins enthusiastically next to a dead elephant.

The effect was so polarizing that the #BoycottJimyJohns Twitter movement started trending again in August of 2019.

2. Beef-Flavored French Fries

If you don’t eat animal products, you may want to skip the French fries at McDonald’s.

In 1990, McDonald’s said they would no longer cook French fries with beef fat, according to The Wall Street Journal. But in 2001, it was revealed that McDonald’s fries are made with beef extract. The fast food giant reportedly stated that they use the flavoring during the potato processing stage.

The discovery prompted a lawsuit against McDonald’s.

While the fast food joint stated they never claimed their French fries were vegetarian, they did apologize for the confusion.

3. Illegal Honey Imports

In 2013, the Department of Justice charged five people and two companies for illegal honey imports.

ALW Food Group, a Hamburg-based food-trading company, allegedly bought cheap honey in China. They shipped the honey to other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, where they re-labeled it as a local product before shipping it off to the States.

By doing this, the seven defendants evaded more than $180 million worth of tariffs called anti-dumping duties.

It was the biggest food fraud in U.S. history, according to Bloomberg.

4. Horse Meat In Beef  

In the 2013 European horse meat scandal, authorities discovered products advertised as beef actually contained horse meat.

The issue involved a variety of foods, including frozen beef burgers and beef lasagna. While the investigations first launched in Ireland and Britain, the scandal eventually spread to 13 other countries throughout Europe. Supermarkets like Aldi were forced to withdraw their beef products.

In fact, according to The Guardian, the withdrawn items at Aldi were made of 100 percent horse meat.

While horse meat is consumed in some countries, including Belgium and France, the folks of Britain and Ireland were outraged.

5. Nuts Disguised As Cumin

In 2015, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched an investigation after traces of almonds and peanuts were found in cumin products in Britain.

The scandal caused great alarm. It was also considered to be more serious than the horse meat scandal of 2013. After all, hidden almonds and peanuts pose a risk for people with nut allergies. Some folks could experience a life-threatening allergic reaction if they unknowingly consume nuts.

Two products from different brands were recalled: ground cumin and a fajita meal kit.

Experts suspected that a cumin crop failure in India prompted the use of nuts as cumin.

6. Taco Bell Mystery Beef

In 2011, a law firm in Alabama filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell for selling “mystery meat.”

The lawsuit claimed the “seasoned beef” was a meat mixture that didn’t qualify being called beef. In response to the allegations, Taco Bell officially disclosed the ingredients, stating that their seasoned beef contains 88 percent real beef. The other 12 percent, says ABC News, is made of ingredients like modified corn starch and cocoa powder, for color.

Cocoa powder? We had no idea.

The law firm decided to withdraw the lawsuit. Regardless, Taco Bell spent 3 to 4 million dollars in advertising to preserve the brand’s reputation.

7. Nestlé Bottled Water 

For several years, communities in southern Ontario have been boycotting Nestlé for bottling B.C. water.

The area experienced a drought in 2016. Wildfires raged throughout the province and residents faced water bans. Yet, Nestlé continued to bottle and package about 265 million liters of water from B.C. each year, says CBC. Sounds like the opposite of water preservation to us, which is definitely unfair to all the other residents who are working to conserve for the drought.

Before 2016, the company was able to do this for free.

They now pay $503.71 for every million liters they take, according to the Nestlé website. To this day, Ontario communities are still boycotting and petitioning to protect their water.

8. Half-Real Chicken Meat 

Allegedly, the chicken meat in Subway sandwiches might only be 50 percent real chicken.

In 2017, researchers tested chicken from various fast food chains, including Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Tim Hortons. The study, which was conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), revealed that the chicken from Subway consists of just 50 percent chicken DNA. Now, you’re likely wondering about what the other 50% is comprised of. What are we really eating here?

The remaining 50 percent is made of soy fillers, according to the the study.

Subway clapped back and sued CBC, claiming their chicken contains 1 percent or less of soy.

9. Lead-Contaminated Instant Noodles

For more than 30 years, Nestlé India’s instant noodles have been one of the most well-known products in India.

The noodles, which are sold under the brand Maggi, are similar to the instant ramen packs you can find in American supermarkets (and college dorms, of course). Each package includes noodles and a packet of spices. Maggi is also insanely popular; many restaurants and vendors serve Maggi dishes with their own unique twist.

But in 2015, officials discovered Maggi contained seven times the allowable limit for lead.

The product was recalled and banned for almost five months. Fortunately, Maggi is now back and safe to eat.

10. Frozen 1970s Meat 

During a month-long operation, Chinese officials seized more than 100,000 tons of smuggled frozen meat.

The incident took place in June 2015. The meat, which included beef, pork, and chicken wings, was worth $483 million. Some of the meat was even from the 1970s — more than 40 years ago, which is pretty ridiculous. According to CNN, the meat was destined for retailers and restaurants for various provinces and cities in China.

Thankfully, officials confiscated the rotting meat before it was served to customers.

Could you imagine if they hadn’t intercepted and someone had eaten that meat? It makes us want to cry.

11. Mislabeled Olive Oil

Your beloved olive oil might not be real olive oil after all.

According to CBS News, an estimated 75 to 80 percent of extra-virgin olive oil in the U.S. is mislabeled. Reportedly, Italian extra-virgin olive oil is often mixed with low-quality olive oil. It might also be a completely different oil, like sunflower oil, that’s been altered to smell and look like the real thing. (Yes, it’s possible!)

Experts told CBS News that if a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil costs seven or eight dollars, it’s probably not the real deal.

So much for affordable olive oil that’s also real.

12. Fake Eggs

And we’re not talking about Easter eggs.

The Chinese food market has endured quite a few food scandals. In 2011, for example, people in the vastly populated Asian country had to deal with exploding watermelons. That almost compares to the fake eggs that apparently flooded the Chinese market in 2012. These faux eggs were edible, but they couldn’t quite compare to the real thing.

And how were these (technically vegetarian) eggs made?

The manufactures filled extremely realistic-looking eggs shells with “egg white” and “egg yolk.” Both components contained resin mixtures and coloring, while the fake white part also contained starch and a coagulating matter. Paraffin wax and calcium carbonated combined to help make the shell.

And the scam was a profitable one.


People bought the eggs because they were priced more affordably only to learn that they’d been duped. After initially popping up in the 1990s, the eggs experienced a production boom. According to Time News, some fake egg manufacturers could create nearly 2,000 of the faux protein sources in a day.

13. Beech-Nut’s Fake Apple Juice

In 1987, Beech-Nut paid a $2 million fine for intentionally selling sugary water as “100 percent apple juice.”

The product, according to The New York Times, actually consisted of water, beet sugar, corn syrup, and cane syrup, along with a few other ingredients. It had very little apple juice, if any at all. Compared to real apple juice, the sugary concoction cost roughly 20 percent less to produce.

To top things off, the apple juice was meant for babies.

The counterfeit apple juice had been shipped to 20 states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and five other countries. Yikes.

Did we miss any other major scandals?

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