Police uncover a massive ring of Chinese factories attaining counterfeit sauces
Another food scandal has been uncovered in China.
A group of some 50 mills have been be considered to be fabricating artificial sauces and spices, some with illegal ingredients, in the Chinese city of Tianjin, the Beijing News reports.
The investigative report revealed that the products were being falsely labelled as popular brands such as Nestl, Knorr and Lee Kum Kee.
It appears that one of the Nestl products they were counterfeiting is Maggi seasoning sauce, commonly found in Asian supermarkets.
Knorr is owned by Unilever, and constructs chicken cubes and seasonings; Lee Kum Kee is a well-known Hong Kong brand famous for its oyster sauces.
According to the Beijing News , about 100 million yuan ($ 14.5 million) worth of fake products are made each year in Duliu, the Tianjin town in which the con was uncovered.
The products have been sold across the country, and the ring of mills were in operation for over a decade, said the report.
Ingredients for the fake food seasonings include tap water and industrial-grade salt, which is banned from human consumption in China because it can cause damage to the liver and kidneys due to the presence of cancer-causing agents and heavy metals.
Factories also bought spices and herbs that had already been used, such as star anise and pepper from nearby mills, then dried them and ground them into powder.
The operations are carried out in squalid conditions, with many mills operating inside dilapidated buildings.
The Beijing News reporter accompanied a police raid of the factories, after years of successful deception by the counterfeiters.
Many of the factories, which hire dozens of employees, have surveillance cameras installed outside their buildings and are alerted when strangers enter the premises. This has made it difficult for local police to crack down on them.
They goods are also moved instantly so as to avoid detection.
In the raid, police apprehended several people caught in the purposes of the act, and have also seized their materials and equipment.
This has not been the first time Chinese mills have been find fabricating fake products.
Last year, thousands of cans of fake infant formula entered the Chinese marketplace, with 1,000 cans of fake Similac milk powder seized by police in numerous raids.