It is no surprise that mainland Chinese consumers have become accustomed to stomach-churning food scandals. Lately, a group of some 50 factories in Tianjin, China have been found to be manufacturing fake seasoning sauces and flavorings, some with illegal ingredients, the Global Times reports.
The report revealed that the seasoning sauces were being falsely labeled as popular brands such as Nestlé, Lee Kum Kee, and Knorr.
It appears that the counterfeit products include Totole’s granulated chicken flavor soup base mix, Nestle’s Maggi cooking sauce and Wang Shouyi Shi San Xiang’s multi-flavored spice, all of which can be commonly found in Asian grocery stores.
According to the Global Times, about 1 billion yuan ($145 million) worth of fake products are produced each year in Tianjin and have been sold across the country.
The counterfeit soy sauce was found to be made from industrial salt, artificial coloring, food additives, and tap water, many of which can cause damage to the liver and kidneys due to the presence of cancer-causing agents and heavy metals.
Factories producing these fake products also bought herbs and spices such as star anise and pepper from nearby factories to reuse the ingredients in their products.
The operations are carried out in dirty and unpleasant conditions, with many factories operating inside dilapidated buildings. The Global Times reporter accompanied a police raid of the factories and witnessed several employees caught in the act while police arrested them and seized their equipment.
Overuse of microbial contamination and food additives were the top food safety problems facing the People’s Republic of China last year, accounting for more than 64 percent of all domestic food safety problems found in China Food and Drug Administration’s random inspections.