Over 50 factories have been caught manufacturing counterfeit sauces and flavoring in a residential district in Tianjin City, China with some operating for over a decade.
Its estimated annual production value of 100 million Yuan ($14 million) is testament to the wide and sophisticated operation of the underground industry. Chinese authorities claim that their products are distributed all over the country. They also believe that some may have already reached other shores, including the Philippines.
Among the prominent brands copied by these family-owned establishments include, Nestle's Maggi Seasoning Sauce; Knorr, famous for its chicken cubes and condiments; and Lee Kum Kee's well-loved oyster sauce.
Consumers, they said, will find it difficult to identify these counterfeit seasonings because the factories have used recycled packaging.
According to The Beijing News, these fake products contain carcinogenic or cancer-causing ingredients and have heavy metal amounts that are way above the allowed limit which can cause liver and kidney damage.
Aside from the already shocking level of toxicity of their products, these establishments have been cited for numerous violations of internationally acceptable sanitary standards.
Ingredients were mixed in large blue chemical containers with tap water coming from garden hoses.
Some factories also recycled herbs and spices from other manufacturing plants.
Most of them have dilapidated buildings that are clearly unsuited for food processing.
China's Food and Drug Administration has already ordered a thorough investigation of the matter.
In their statement, they said that, "local food and drug regulatory authorities should seriously investigate and rectify counterfeit and shoddy food products."
With their own brand included in the roster of fake products, Nestle said it condemns "any illegal counterfeiting of food and beverage products."
"We are working closely with the authorities to identify and take action against counterfeiters in order to protect consumers," company spokeswoman Liu Ying added.
Lee Kum Kee, on the other hand, advises consumers to buy their products from reputable groceries or supermarkets because most counterfeit products are "sold to small or medium-sized street vendors or wholesale markets."
Over 500,000 incidents of illegal activities have been disrupted by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration in over 15 million inspections conducted during the first three-quarters of 2016.
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