With the Easter holiday having just passed us by, and a massive amount of chocolate eggs having been consumed, it’s made us wonder if all of those eggs are, in fact, chocolate. Just like any product, the more popular it is with consumers, the more probable that crooked counterfeiters will try to profit from its success. In 2017, eight people were sentenced to one to five years in prison along with a fine of nearly a million euros for producing and selling counterfeit chocolates. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence for our favorite tasty treat—or most food for that matter.
Counterfeit chocolate is, by all accounts, an undesirable offense. It’s a beloved dessert, universally eaten, and it could be said that most consumers in the first world have enough easy access to shelves of chocolate choices. The question then becomes, are all of those choices authentic cocoa? Probably not. Every country has its own standards of what can be legally categorized as “chocolate,” but in general, what separates real chocolate from imitation chocolate is an ingredient called “chocolate liquor” or rather, it’s two separate components: “cocoa” and “cocoa butter.” The taste of authentic cocoa is recognizably richer and more pure, plus consumers don’t have to worry about ingesting the dangerous chemicals or ingredients that are used as replacements in fake chocolate. Ultimately, fake chocolate is not worth the lower price tag and, for many people, it’s an affront to the longstanding and illustrious history of pure, authentic chocolate.
This isn’t the first time chocolate has had a run in with rip-offs. Back in the 13th and 14th centuries, counterfeit cocoa ran rampant within the Aztec culture. The major difference between then and now concerning counterfeit cocoa is that, nowadays, the fake products are allowed to be rebranded as “chocolate flavored” in order to be legally sold. Modern counterfeit chocolate—or what has been rebranded as “candy” or “chocolate flavored,” is typically made with artificial flavoring and alternative ingredients. In the European Union, it was ruled that certain substitutions for cocoa butter could, in fact, legally be considered chocolate, however that allows for only up to 5% and only for a few oils that chemically resemble cocoa butter. The limitations on the modification of chocolate wholly depend on the regulations in the country of sale, as there are government bodies that are in place to moderate these specific food and beverage standards. Brands looking to take action against counterfeit chocolate have two major legal bearings to stand on. In the food sector, there are two types of counterfeiting: food fraud—which includes falsification and adulteration—and the falsification of the brand itself. When it comes to the world-renowned and beloved Swiss and Belgian brands, it’s brand fraud which is typically at stake. However, in less-regulated markets, the more common fraudulent activity is that of adultering the product itself.
How big is the problem?
Certain big-name chocolate brands have become the targets of counterfeiters, but it’s not chocolate alone that is the sole target of corruption. The food industry as a whole is under constant siege of counterfeiters. Just last year, a thorough investigation took place that implemented over 41,000 checks in shops, markets, airports, seaports, and industrial estates. What this whole operation managed to uncover was a seizure of more than 3,620 tonnes and 9.7 million liters of counterfeit or substandard food and beverages. It can not be overstated that counterfeiting in the food industry is a major current concern.
Naturally, the consumption of these products puts people at risk. These edible products are being sold for remarkably low prices because they either do not meet the health standards set by the country of sale or they’re being illegally marketed as something they are not entitled to be. Your favorite foods could contain traces of harmful chemicals and altered substances, or they could be altogether expired. You might be surprised to hear that most people regularly—and unknowingly—consume fake food, but that shouldn’t make it an acceptable offense. For this reason, food brands should have an effective system in place to remove the counterfeit products in order to protect the public, as well as their brand’s profits.
What can we do to stop it?
Thankfully, Pointer Brand Protection has a variety of defensive solutions geared to fighting specific brand-related problems, including tackling the issue of counterfeiting in the food industry. Like most industries, the food industry is best protected by using a combination of our solutions. Our Market Protect module actively safeguards any online counterfeit listings while the Domain Protect module keeps entire counterfeit websites at bay. Together with our automated software, our international team provides extensive global coverage to ensure the public no longer has access to dangerous, fraudulent food and beverage products. With our help, you’ll be able to ensure your customers’ happiness by providing them with the finest real chocolate and not the stale fakes.