Latest food scandal in China as 50 factories busted for dangerous counterfeit food products

Hazardous chemicals and leftovers were found in fake Nestle branded goods

Manufacturers in Duliu township in Northern China's Tianjin Municipality were allegedly found to be producing counterfeit brands of food seasoning, such as Nestle and Totole, worth more  than 1 billion yaun (€135 million).

In the latest food scandal to occur in China, at least 50 plants were counterfeiting the products, with one manufacturer revealing to The Beijing News that they have all the popular seasoning brands, including Totole's granulated chicken flavor soup base mix, Nestle's Maggi cooking sauce and Wang Shouyi Shi San Xiang's multi-flavoured spice.

The counterfeit soy sauce is made from industrial salt, artificial colouring and food additives and tap water, the report said.

"Industrial salt is considered dangerous. It contains hazardous chemicals like nitrite - a carcinogen - and heavy metals, which harm the liver and kidney," said Liu Shaowei to The Global Times.

The report also said that after being used by other factories nearby that are making sunflower seeds, leftover star anise, Sichuan pepper and fennel are dried, grounded, processed and labelled as the multi-flavoured spice to be sold.

The packaging of the fake products is the exact same as authentic ones, down to the font size and colour, and even the QR codes. Production of the products is thought to have been in effect for almost a decade.

The counterfeit products are believed to have been purchased by lower-level wholesalers for consumption in restaurants and smaller supermarkets, with no indication that any of the goods have been exported outside of China.

A sampling inspection conducted by the China Food and Drug Administration for the upcoming Spring Festival shows six batches of 11 types of food, including meat, edible oil, beverages, dairy products, fruits and wine failed, with 1,392 batches passing the inspection, China News Service reported on Monday.

This scandal comes as the latest in a string of many in recent years, with previous incidents including infant milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, which left 6 infants dead and up to 300,000 ill in 2008 and the revelation in 2010 that one in ten meals in China were cooked using recycled oil scavenged from sewerage drains.

Officials from the Food and Drug Administration are currently investigating the counterfeit products.