A Host of Fake Food Products From China That You Really Should Watch Out for That Can KILL You

June 17, 2019 Updated: June 18, 2019

In China, the prevalence of “knockoff” products—which look similar to expensive, quality brands but are made at a lower cost and without the same level of 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, though, that knockoff culture has extended to foods as well. Culinary blogger Mike Chen of Middletown, NY, who shares his experiences eating world cuisine, recently published a video explaining how an array of food products in China have been discovered to 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 that are hidden inside real walnut shells in order to double the amount a seller can put in a bag, and much more. For short-sighted gains, dishonest merchants have taken the world’s most necessary products and swapped them out in order to bring in a fast buck.

Some of the food product scandals in China have been exposed in the last handful of years, including pork that has been disguised as beef, and “fake” black pepper made from dirt residue from local mud.

Some of the fakes are simply disingenuous; the fake beef from pork is still made from a natural food product but involves charging individuals more than they’re supposed to, since pork is more easily obtained in China, while beef is more expensive.

And in other cases, such as fake honey being cut with cheaper corn syrup and other additives, the counterfeits are being exported worldwide as well.

Chen explained that the artificial ingredients that are used to make these knockoff food products in the world’s most populous country can have some pretty daunting side effects, from gastrointestinal issues to memory loss down the road.

In addition, there is fake, plastic rice that does not soften when cooked, fake fine wine, which uses cheap wine poured into expensive French wine bottles, BBQ beef buns from street vendors that contain cardboard, walnut shells filled with paper and concrete instead of walnut meat, fake honey, almost impossible to discern from the real thing, cut with cheap sugar syrup, 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.

China is hunting for nearly 100 tonnes of milk powder tainted with the industrial chemical melamine that was supposed to have been destroyed after a 2008 scandal over the deaths of six babies. (©Getty Images | AFP)
China’s safety standards have come under sharp international criticism amid regular reports of fake, shoddy, or dangerous goods emanating from the nation’s chaotic and corrupt food and drug industry. (©Getty Images | TEH ENG KOON)
China has launched nationwide campaigns to inspect pig slaughtering and processing industry in the wake of the pig infection. According to the Ministry of Health, the death toll in Sichuan Province’s pig-borne disease has risen to 31 with 27 in critical condition. (©Getty Images | China Photos)

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 obviously inflate prices in hopes of turning a bigger profit, it’s unlikely that one company will be able to sell the same product for less than everyone else, unless they’re cutting corners. The old adage “you get what you pay for” seems to hold universally.

There are also certain characteristics that these fake products display that can tip you off. The fake eggs, for example, boast a more neutral smell than a real egg and sound more hollow when you tap them; similarly, it’s always smart to look for packaged foods that have some sort of regulation stamp of approval.

Hopefully, exposure of these fake product scams 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.