The lack of effective food safety laws in China has created a monster of terrible proportions.
It is one thing to replicate designer merchandise and rip off manufacturers, and quite another to dare to imitate Mother Nature and mess with the nutritious ingredients that comprise the staples of human diets.
China’s population of 1.3 billion is hungry for both food and wealth, and this combination often nurses corruption, especially when there’s no government watchdog preventing the commission of such crimes.
Vendors selling street food are obvious culprits. Here are some of the major fake foods circulating China.
Perpetrators remove the nut’s true meat, replacing it with a lump of concrete and gluing the shell shut. To further foster the “nut illusion,” much care is taken to wrap each cement lump in paper so as not to arouse suspicion.
Honey laundering concerns the creation of a counterfeit honey product that is falsely labeled and shipped through India, then on to the United States.
It is the result of blending sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar), barley malt sweetener or other additives with a bit of actual honey.
Making expensive beef out of cheaper chicken or pork and charging the highest price possible is its own form of despicable alchemy.
Unfortunately, it is fairly easy to do. It takes about 90 minutes to create by marinating a blend of high-grade beef extract and a glazing agent.
“Meat-masking additives” are dangerous. Continued use can cause slow poisoning of human organs, leading to deformities and possibly even some forms of cancer.
It would seem that there should be a special penalty for daring to imitate the mainstay of the Chinese culinary experience. Authorities in Singapore have stated that some companies are making imitation rice from plastic industrial resin and potatoes (both sweet and regular).
This fake product looks real in its raw state, but once it’s cooked it becomes hard and chewy. “Eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag,” stated one official from the Chinese Restaurant Association.
Man-made eggs are composed of chemicals, alginic acid, potassium, calcium chloride, gelatin, paraffin, artificial coloring and water, and are sold as if they were the real thing.
They are boiled in the urine of young boys and the eggshells are made from chalk.
Adding insult to injury, instructions for making these bogus eggs can be found on a variety of websites.
It is said that the imitations do resemble eggs, but not after cooking, at which point the yolks have been known to bounce.
Eating these disgusting imitations on a continued basis can lead to memory loss and dementia.
What’s next? Fake chickens?
Repackaging stale buns would appear to be a new low in China’s food packaging standards.
Some grocery stores have been accused of sending buns that have expired back to their makers, the Shanghai Shenglu Food Company, where they are thrown into a vat with water, flour, an illegal yellow food coloring and artificial sweeteners. The buns are then repackaged and resold as new, fresh buns.
Some action has been taken against the company’s director, perhaps because the scandal was just too public and shameful for the government to bear.
The director lost his production license and the government has since removed 32,000 buns from store shelves.
China’s food safety policy is for the most part non-existent and in dire need of reform. Regulations are difficult to enforce due to the vast size of the country. In 2009, the government did recognize food safety issues as a national problem, which is always the first step to any recovery process.
The violations, however, are blatant, and they continue unabated.
Where is Ralph Nader when you need him?