In China, the prevalence of “knockoff” products—similar to expensive brands but made at a lower cost without the same standards—has become incredibly high. From purses to phones and clothing to jewelry, you can buy just about anything at a fraction of the cost thanks to the inexpensive Chinese manufacturing.
Unfortunately, that knockoff culture has extended to foods. Culinary blogger Mike Chen, of Middletown, New York, who shares his experiences eating world cuisine, published a video in November 2016 explaining how an array of food products in China contain unnatural additives and ingredients making McDonald’s seem like healthy living by comparison.
The host of fake foods includes fake eggs made from resin, starch, coagulant, and pigments poured into a mold and sold for a fraction of the cost of a real chicken egg, concrete walnuts hidden inside real shells in order to double the amount a seller can put in a bag, and much more. For short-term gains, dishonest merchants have taken the world’s most vital products and swapped them out in order to bring in a fast buck.
Some food product scandals in China have been exposed in recent years, including pork that has been disguised as beef, and fake black pepper made from local dirt.
Some of the fakes are simply disingenuous; the fake beef from pork is made a natural food product but involves charging individuals more than they’re supposed to; pork is more easily obtained in China, while beef is more expensive.
In other cases, such as fake honey cut with cheaper corn syrup and other additives, the counterfeits are being exported worldwide.
Chen explained that the artificial ingredients that are used to make these knockoff food products in the world’s most populous country can have daunting side effects, from gastrointestinal issues to memory loss down.
In addition, there is fake plastic rice that does not soften when cooked, cheap wine poured into expensive French wine bottles, BBQ beef buns from street vendors containing cardboard, rat meat posing as mutton slices, and even fake brand-name beers such as Heineken.
We would also take the opportunity to be reminded of the fake and potentially harmful milk formula that was exposed in major media over a decade ago.
He added that there are ways to avoid being duped by these fake products, though.
To start, be wary of food products selling for significantly less than you’d expect—particularly if you’ve been shopping around and the market value is far above what you’re seeing in front of you—that’s usually a red flag.
While some businesses might inflate prices in hopes of turning a bigger profit, it’s unlikely that one company will be able to sell the same product for far less than everyone else, unless they’re cutting corners. The old adage “you get what you pay for” seems to hold.
There are also certain characteristics that these fake products display that can tip you off. The fake eggs boast a more neutral smell than a real egg and sound more hollow when you tap them; it’s always smart to look for packaged foods that have some sort of regulation stamp of approval.
Hopefully, exposure of these products will steer customers away from the crooks. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, as they say. An informed customer, ideally, leads to more accountability, and in this case, their very own health.