Swindled - From Poisoned Sweets To Counterfeit Coffee

Bee Wilson's history of food adulteration over the centuries.



A Treatise on Adulteration of Food and Culinary Poisons by Frederick Accum was published in 1820.

It became a best-seller that shook English society with its revelations of the extremes to which food retailers and manufacturers would go to sell their products.


We might think we know what constitutes bread or genuine wine, but the history of tampering with food from Roman times to the present day tells an altogether more sinister story about what we consume.


The history of tampering with food in America is just as shocking as that in Britain.


The two world wars encouraged new extremes of ingenuity in food adulteration.

Ersatz food was an attempt to make a virtue of necessity when shortages took hold.

As one inhabitant of Leipzig commented, however, she didn't mind consuming rat but it was just the rat substitute she couldn't bear.

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The food swindlers continue to find ever more sophisticated ways of adulterating our food and the champions of pure food must keep pace with their ingenuity.

Scientists in the 21st century are resorting to DNA analysis to police the food we eat.