Food scandals frequently rock China, from the use of gutter oil — recycled cooking oil sometimes actually retrieved from sewers — to tainted milk and repackaged expired meat being sold to major chains. (It’s worth noting that the United States has its own fake food problems, like widespread fish fraud and Parmesan cut with wood pulp.) The latest scandal to hit the country involves a hub of 50 factories in the northern port city of Tianjin producing counterfeit sauces made with dirty tap water, previously used spices, and dangerous ingredients like industrial salt.
According to the Beijing News, factories in Tiajin were producing up to $14,535,306 of fake products every year. The fraud had been going on for more than a decade, and included bootleg versions of soy sauce, vinegar, soup base mix, and seasonings with packaging identical to the authentic versions sold by major brands like Knorr, Lee Kum Kee, and Nestlé. While the products are believed to have been sold by low-level wholesalers for restaurants in China, it isn’t believed that they were exported.