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October 2021 | latest update: 12.09.2023 | by Lili


Organized cooking - the issue of fake food


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You’ve heard of fake designer clothing, fake money, fake car parts, even fake sneakers. But fake food? Is it something that looks like food but isn’t? Like colourful, sweet-smelling capsules that may look like candy but you should never, ever put them in your mouth (aka the Tide-pod challenge)?


Unfortunately, the issue of fake food is much more complicated than using laundry products strictly for their original purpose.

What is fake food 

A grocer in Italy cuts a slice from a large block of prosciutto

A grocer in Italy cuts a slice from a large block of prosciutto

Fake food, like many other fake goods, tries to look like a branded product. But it’s not.


Just like a pair of fake Nike sneakers, a slice of fake Italian prosciutto is made from low quality ingredients that may even be harmful to the health of consumers.


Fake food comes in many shapes and sizes. And, unfortunately, it’s often even harder to recognize than other types of fake products.


Also, it’s everywhere: according to a study, the trade of fake food is valued at $30-40 billion per year. The reasons behind creating fake food are similar to counterfeiting any other types of products.


Using subpar ingredients and production standards results in lower unit prices, which in turn helps with the sales of the finished product.


Not to mention the amount of time and resources the fraudsters “save” by cutting out the IP-right holders from the process.


The big difference lies in the distribution of the fake products. While fraudulent sellers of any other types of fake goods are usually left to their own devices and “work” independently, fake food items often have a powerful distribution force behind them: organized crime groups. Also known as the mafia.



Beef carpaccio à la Godfather

Don’t expect Don Corleone to turn up in the middle of the frozen aisle of your local supermarket. But the connection is definitely there: according to the investigation of German security authorities, the Italian mafia is quite active in the fake food industry in Germany.


The reason: this branch of business is very lucrative and has a lot less severe consequences than say, smuggling illegal drugs. In fact, as Europol found, the trading of fake food is the second most profitable criminal activity in Europe after drug trafficking.


But the mafia, being the mafia, does a little more than creating compelling webshops to draw in customers looking for a great deal on branded products. Instead, the distributors of fake food don’t shy away from blackmail and threats of violence against restaurant operators to “convince” them to use the fake products instead of the originals.


Restaurants aren’t the only ones affected by this problem. Bad quality fake food makes its way to grocery stores, both on- and offline, and ultimately, to the plates of consumers.

The role of online brand protection

We’re not the police and it’s not our job to fight organized crime. But we definitely stop bad guys from harming our clients’ IP rights, reputation and ultimately, their bottom line.


Our services are aimed at detecting and eliminating IP-infringements as well as leaks in our clients’ distribution networks. From this angle, fake food offered on online and local marketplaces is just like any other fake product. A problem that can be solved by continuous marketplace monitoring, test purchases and enforcement.


Our marketplace monitoring software works well on both B2C and B2B marketplaces. In the case of fake food offered for restaurants and grocery stores, monitoring B2B marketplaces is a must-have for brands to protect their IP-rights and reputation. Authorized sellers can be filtered out, allowing us to concentrate only on infringers and merchants outside your regular distribution network.


To verify the product and the route it takes from marketplace to customer, our test purchase service is indispensable. It also comes in handy when you want to check the quality of a certain product, regardless of whether it’s fake or not. For example, not all kebab is allowed to be called so unless it meets certain criteria. Our test purchases catch dishonest sellers in the act who try to get a competitive advantage by not following the rules.


Fake and bad quality products are everywhere, and the food industry is no exception. Brands need to be aware of the dangers and find a reliable online brand protection partner to protect themselves from the consequences of IP-infringement, a leaky distribution chain and non-compliant behaviour.


Reach out to us and find out how globaleyez can work with your brand.