The food safety concerns that have developed between Australia and China have taken a new turn this week, as Australian citrus farmers are beginning to see signs of a disastrous future for the industry.
It seems that Asian consumers have far more to worry about than just hepatitis-infected imported berries, as Chinese fraudsters have begun to make profits selling fake Australian fruits to other Asian countries. The fake fruits are sold in boxes that are exact replicas to the boxes used for Australian products and even include ‘Grown in Australia’ labelling.
In the recent years, Australia has seen a huge increase in the amount of citrus it exports to China, with sales worth approximately $30m in 2014. That’s around 18,000 tonnes of oranges and mandarins per year – creating a huge market that could suffer significantly from this new development.
What makes the concept exceptionally alarming is that some of the fake Australian fruit has been coated in dye which is known to be “quite toxic” according to Citrus Australia’s Andrew Harty.
Recognising the fraudulent fruit
Fortunately, it should be easy enough for many consumers to determine the difference between high-quality Australian produce and the counterfeit as the colours are clearly artificial, glowing with a deep red-orange hue. What’s more, only the top layer of fruit in a box is dyed.
Mr. Harty suggested that the fact that Australia’s fruit market is known for its healthy, sweet and safe produce is what has prompted Chinese criminals to take action. Of course, beyond that, it’s easy to see that there is a very high demand for safe produce in China which means that the fake fruit is capable of attracting incredibly high prices.
Ian Shepherd, from Queensland-based supplier “Gaypak”, a frequent exporter to China, informed news outlets that he has seen evidence of his own cartons being copied in Asian countries. He commented that the ramifications for his company could be significant if his logo was found on local fruit contaminated with “chemical residue”.
How can we fight back?
Unfortunately, Mr. Shepherd and other experts noted that the Australian industry could do little to prevent counterfeit representations of Australian produce being made. All that they can do is continue to offer high-quality fruit to their customers. Mr. Shepherd suggested that the Chinese Government should be working to deal with the issue, whereas Andre Harty noted that the industry would be considering which legal actions it could take.
As many people will already know, the nauseatingly high list of food safety incidents that have been taking place throughout China during the last decade has made for some extremely worrisome news stories. From kebabs made with rat meat, to pork buns filled with glowing bacteria, it’s no surprise that Chinese scammers are making efforts to fake safe food that has a higher value.