In 2008, thousands of babies in China became sick after drinking contaminated milk formula containing melamine.
Melamine, which is normally used in plastics and is banned from use in food, was added to watered-down milk in order to make the liquid appear higher in protein when tested.
There have also been cases where dangerous chemicals, including rat poison, were found to be present in fake food in place of legitimate additives.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), counterfeit goods have both health and economic implications.
“The production and sale of counterfeit goods is a global, multi-billion dollar problem and one that has serious economic and health ramifications for governments, businesses and consumers. It can affect what we eat, what we watch, what medicines we take and what we wear,” UNODC said.
Every year thousands are deceived into buying expensive counterfeit food and this deception is a ploy by criminals to intentionally mislabel and misrepresent foods in a bid to raise prices.
Counterfeit goods are not put through the same vigorous safety checks. The same applies to fake medicines, alcohol and food, as they are not subjected to the same health and safety procedures as legal items.
On a local scale, South Africa’s economy bleeds billions every year due to the rampant sale of fake foods and counterfeit goods, illegal mining activities, bootleg alcohol, fuel, and illicit cigarettes.
Last week, Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, who led the Operation Shanela crackdown against fake products in the Johannesburg CBD, highlighted the issue.
Cele said South Africa had a problem with counterfeit goods and illegal foreigners who rented business premises to sell fake and expired food items and other goods to South Africans.
How to stay safe and avoid buying counterfeit goods
Trust your instincts. As the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. If something looks sketchy, it probably is.
Check the spelling and grammar. This is the one time it is okay to be obnoxious about spelling or grammar. Like scams, people behind these products do not really pay attention to these details, as well as the logo or picture not looking quite right.
Only deal with reputable sellers. It will be a little more expensive, but it is worth it in the end.