Another year, another chance to demonstrate just how large a role food plays in our lives. Whether it was about the politics, the outrageous creations or the unavoidable celebrity chefs, food was top of mind throughout 2013 (and the holidays will guarantee it'll stay that way for quite a while).

We've taken a look at 12 of the biggest food scandals that occurred throughout the year. And let us know, of course, if we missed anything you thought was important.

  • Sriracha Factory Shutdown
    AP Photo/Nick Ut, File
    This was quite the year for Sriracha, the Thai hot sauce that comes most recognizably in North America in a bottle with a rooster on it. Not only was it used to flavour many different kinds of foods, but also immortalized in countless products dedicated to its image. But it was when the Huy Fong Foods factory (which makes that well-known bottle) was asked by the residents of Irwindale, California to shut down due to offensive odours that people really rallied around. As of right now, the factory is partially shut down, and the owners are showing a remarkable sense of humour about it.
  • Horse Meat In Beef
    PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images
    When the Food Safety Authority of Ireland discovered traces of horse meat in frozen beef burgers, Europe's entire food industry went on a hunt for the culprits, and millions of products were pulled from shelves. Ikea was pulled into the fray when it was discovered their meatballs contained some horse meat, though they've now changed practices and reintroduced the product. The EU is now reviewing their food controls to create fines for those who defy the rules. Meanwhile, their French neighbours (and ours, for that matter) shrugged their shoulders and continued buying horse meat at the supermarket.
  • Ritz Crackers Are Necessary
    When one Manitoba mom neglected to pack enough grains in her kids' lunches, she received a $10 fine for the Ritz crackers the school had to supplement in order to create a Canada's Food Guide-based balanced meal. Rather than lambast the daycare, though, the scandal focused on some of the problems with Canada's Food Guide — namely, the blanket statements about grains and their supposed equality.
  • Chefs' Seal Hunt Boycott
    Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
    There have been protests against Canada's commercial seal hunt for years, but the campaign had a big boost when 42 of Food & Wine's "best new chefs" signed on with the Humane Society to petition for its end. The scandal started in earnest, however, when star chefs Anthony Bourdain and David McMillan spoke out against this group, citing the necessity of the seal hunt for the native population. A lot of back and forth resulted in — well, each group sticking to their own sides.
  • 'Gods Of Food'
    When Time magazine released its "Gods of Food" issue in November, only four women — none of whom were chefs — fit the bill. The outcry that followed, included both those who helped defended the choice, those who thought it was ridiculous, and those who used it as a jumping-off point for a discussion, all inevitably helped the story get bigger than it would have been otherwise.
  • Paula Deen
    AP Photo/Carlo Allegri, File
    This one isn't exactly about food, but about a food personality (one of two on our list). When celebrity chef Paula Deen, best known for her uber-fried food and love of butter, admitted to having used the N-word in the past, her entire empire crumbled around her. Various high-profile partnerships fell apart (though it's debatable what kind of follow through there was on that), and different factions went back and forth as to whether it was necessary to hold a woman accountable for something she said 20 years ago.
  • Nigella Lawson
    VALERY HACHE/AFP/GettyImages
    Our second celebrity chef scandal focuses on the U.K.'s Nigella Lawson, whose enormously popular cookbooks have made this "home cook" a household name for years. And now, likely even more people know about her, thanks to accusations by her ex-husband Charles Saatchi about her drug usage. Taking a grassroots approach, Nigella tweeted her thanks to supporters using #TeamNigella, which continues to go strong and inspire some unabashedly positive stories.
  • GMO Labels
    In what can only be called an epic debate, 14-year-old activist Rachel Parent took on Kevin O'Leary in a debate surrounding the lack of labelling for genetically modified foods in Canada and the U.S., noting Europe, Japan, Australia and many other locations require such notifications. While there have been many protests on the issue, current Canadian regulations (last updated in 2004) do not require GMO labelling.
  • Pastagate
    Shutterstock
    What do you get when you identify a pasta on your restaurant's menu as, well, pasta? If you're in Quebec, a demand to change the language, apparently. Well-known Montreal restaurant Buonanotte was asked by the Quebec language police to change its menu, as it had too many Italian words — like botiglia, pasta and antipasto — without a French translation. The controversy opened the doors on the many problems the department had been having with its overly stringent rules, and led to the eventual resignation of its head.
  • Dating For Free Meals
    When Erin Wotherspoon, 24, decided she wanted to visit Toronto's best restaurants, she did so in a way that had many feminists shaking their heads — she dated for it. The outcry ranged from calling her a prostitute to a genius, and in a blog on The Huffington Post Canada, Wotherspoon explained her "meaning" herself: "My rationale? I want to go to nice restaurants and have guys pay for it while I review the food. I will review the restaurant and the date after the fact."
  • New Girl Scout Cookie
    Growing up in Canada, it was hard not to be jealous of the various foods only available in the U.S., and Girl Scout cookies were certainly among them (sorry, Girl Guides). So when the Mango Creme flavour was introduced in January of this year, it may have angered some traditionalists — but we Canadians were still just thinking, 'How do I get my hands on the Peanut Butter Sandwich?'
  • CNE Cronuts/Food Poisoning
    The excitement was palpable when the Cronut burger arrived in Canada, served at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition food building. But happiness quickly turned to horror as more than 150 people got sick after eating it. The culprit? The maple bacon jam that was the condiment for this croissant/doughtnut/beef hybrid meal. To which we say — maybe too much?

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story referred to Nigella Lawson's "thieving ways," which was an incorrect reporting of the lawsuit against her ex-husband's former staff members.


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