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'Fake Foods' Author Pens Cautionary Tale

Wendy Rigby
Texas Public Radio
Real Foods, Fake Foods author Larry Olmsted presented his book at the San Antonio Book Festival. Wendy Rigby of Texas Public Radio was moderator of the panel discussion.

You’ve heard of fake news.  What about fake food?  A New York Times bestselling author has written a book about that. You may not always be getting what you pay for at a restaurant or grocery store. And that could impact your health.

At the San Antonio Book Festivalthis spring, author Larry Olmstedtalked about his new book Real Food, Fake Food. It’s both a cautionary tale and a crusade. 


"The only reason there are all these fake foods is that the real foods are so good," Olmstead said.

His first example was surprising. "So you go into a restaurant and you order grouper which you think comes from the Gulf of Mexico and is not a farmed fish and you get tilapia that is raised in some kind of backwards fish farm in the third world that may have chemicals that are known carcinogens in it," Olmsted oulined.

Seafood is the worst offender in the fake food industry, Olmsted says. His research showed many of the fish substituted for wild caught are actually farmed filled full of drugs not allowed in the U.S.

Credit Wendy Rigby / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Real Food, Fake Food author Larry Olmsted published his book in 2016.


"Frequently when the FDA inspects imports, they find the use of illegal or banned antibiotics," he explained.

Red snapper, he said, is the most substituted fish. "You often get tilefish which is on the FDA’s do not eat list for pregnant women and children and sensitive diners because it’s so high in mercury," Olmsted explained. "So in these cases, you’re getting something that’s not just inferior, but dangerous." 

Olmsted said you may think you’re using extra virgin olive oil, a healthy cooking choice, when you aren’t. Sometimes, it’s cut with soy or peanut oil and could cause allergic reactions in sensitive people.

The subtitle of Olmsted’s book is “Why you don’t know what you’re eating and what you can do about it.” Each chapter reveals labels and phrases and brands to look for when you’re shopping or eating out.

He said the real foods that taste better are almost always healthier as well.



Wendy Rigby is a San Antonio native who has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years. She spent two decades at KENS-TV covering health and medical news. Now, she brings her considerable background, experience and passion to Texas Public Radio.