Authorities in China have raided two workshops producing fake jellyfish, made from a mix of chemicals, which pose a public health concern.
According to an official release from police in Huzhou, China, local jellyfish counterfeiters had been using three main chemicals — sodium alginate, ammonium, and anhydrous calcium chloride — to create a substance that mimics the appearance and texture of jellyfish, a popular Chinese dish that is often sliced and served with soy sauce and sesame oil.
When tested, the fake seafood showed “excessive levels” of aluminum — up to 800 milligrams per kilogram, eight times China’s legal limit — which Chinese food safety officials said could lead to bone and nerve damage as well as memory impairment and mental decline.
More than 10 metric tons (22,046 pounds) are thought to have reached local markets by the time police got involved. Along with two main operators, several members of the fake jellyfish syndicate were arrested in late April, though the news was made public by police this month.
Members of the counterfeiting ring made more than 170,000 yuan (approximately $26,000 USD) in a year of production, partly because the demand for jellyfish remains high, especially in summer months. Farmed jellyfish can take months to reach profitable size, while artificial jellyfish can be made in much less time.
Police issued instructions on how to tell real jellyfish from fake jellyfish, which has no taste or smell, is difficult to tear, and has a texture similar to plastic tape. Real jellyfish, authorities noted, looks slightly yellow and smells “of the sea.”