On presenter Jaega Wise’s kitchen table sat a black device about the size of a pair of binoculars. It was the latest innovation from UK food authentication provider Bia Analytical, and BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme (10 March, 12.30pm) was given an exclusive first spin.

Under the microscope – actually a near infrared light – were herbs and spices. Why? Because they’re high value, and – given they are ground, dried and powdery – easy to fake and bulk out, with big financial incentives for doing so.

In total, 61 were tested. The device flagged 20, which were sent off for further analysis.

As the programme teased listeners with the results, Wise explored the current food fraud situation in the UK, which the FSA’s Robin May explained was not getting worse exactly – rather was a constant concern.

There had been recent cases where – thanks to its powerful colouring – lead dyes had been discovered in spice racks.

No shock to Professor Chris Elliott, who led the government’s response to the horsemeat scandal.

“To be honest it’s no big surprise” spices were getting adulterated, he said. A common cheat was to add a bulking agent. Examples included chalk dust in garlic and brick dust in paprika. Yum.

At last, we got the results. Of the samples, seven were confirmed inauthentic: One each of black pepper, oregano, turmeric, garlic powder, ginger and two of paprika. Cue boilerplate deep concern from affected brands and retailers.

“Surprised? Shocked? I certainly was,” Wise said. She won’t be alone.