Counterfeiters cook up latest scam - fake tofu

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 December, 2010, 12:00am

Chinese counterfeiters are going to new lengths in their hunt for riches - fake tofu.

According to mainland media, fake tofu, made with chemicals and cheap starch, is widespread on the mainland, having been found in the central provinces of Hunan and Hubei and the southern province of Hainan .

A tofu manufacturer based in Suzhou , Jiangsu, alerted the authorities that fake products had been passed off as its certified and registered tofu products in several cities in Hubei and Hunan since May, the Changjiang Times reported on Monday.

The authorities have closed at least two workshops in Wuhan, Hubei, arresting their owners and seizing large quantities of chemical material, including isolated soy protein, starch and colouring agents.

The counterfeiters said they mixed the chemicals with water, salt and monosodium glutamate before steaming the mixture, packaging it and giving it a brand name.

In March last year, fake tofu was found in Haikou , the capital of Hainan. It was made of starch, sodium carbonate and a little soybean.

The fake tofu made from starch is much cheaper than the natural product made from soy beans. Inflation has seen the price of soy beans rise to five yuan a kilogram, while fake tofu costs about two yuan a kilogram.

A staple in China for thousands of years, tofu is known for its extraordinary nutritional benefits. It contains few calories, a relatively large amount of iron, and little fat. However, the fake product contains little natural soy protein and a lot of additives.

Fake tofu is not the only food on the mainland counterfeited using cheap, chemical ingredients that can lead to long-term health problems.

China Central Television reported on Sunday that many companies have sold formulas online teaching people how to make fake eggs, at a cost of just five fen per egg. In Shenzhen, eggs sell for 70 fen each.

In the case of fake eggs, the eggshells, whites and yolks are all made from industrial and commercial chemicals including alginic acid, potassium alum, gelatin, calcium chloride and calcium carbonate.

The counterfeiters told CCTV it is hard to tell the difference between fake and real eggs and that they charged 1,000 yuan for the formula.

But experts warn of the danger of fake eggs. Not only do they have no nutrients, but long-term consumption of alum can cause dementia.