Monday, February 6, 2012

Beware! Counterfeit Items Go Beyond Luxury Items

We all know to look out for designer counterfeit items.  Most of us have studied the tell-tell signs of the item(s) that our heart covets - that expensive designer watch, a Coach, Chanel or Prada handbag, those Louboutins, Jimmy Choos, Manolo shoes or boots, 7 for all mankind, True Religion, Cavalli jeans, or even that Big Pony Ralph Lauren polo shirt.  We study the ins and outs of these items so we can look for them at discounted prices either on eBay, eCrater, consignment shops or the thrift stores.  While we understand, know and have even seen some pretty darn good fakes, we tend to overlook some other more mainstream items that are counterfeited.  Why?  Because to most of us, myself included, it baffles the mind why someone would even want to counterfeit Old Navy or even Wal-Mart brands but they do.

The more mainstream things are stuff we don't even think about -  toothpaste, baby formula, perfume, shampoo, sunscreen, cosmetics, maple syrup and even honey!

These mainstream items are being counterfeited and at the price of our health - and the health of our children!

http://money.msn.com/family-money/7-ordinary-items-now-counterfeited

Despite government efforts, experts say the onus is still largely on shoppers to recognize and avoid the fakes. Aside from the red flag of a deep discount, be cautious about product labeling or packages that seem different from the usual, such as a misplaced bar code, peeling label or gluey residue, says Joseph LaRocca, the vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation. If a product's taste, smell or texture seems off -- or online buyers have noted that in reviews -- that's another warning sign, he says.

The price of being an unwitting buyer can be high, and not just in money wasted. "Criminals are looking to make money, so their focus is on making the product look as much like the real product as possible," Halvorson says. "They'll spend more money on the packaging than the good itself." As a result, many of the basic fakes can carry serious health and safety risks.
Following are seven household items that government and industry groups say shoppers may unwittingly buy in fake versions.  

Sunscreen


Fake sunscreen can burn people twice -- first at the cash register, then at the beach. Counterfeits often contain chemical additives, but they can also simply be cheap, all-purpose skin lotion, which provides zero UV protection.

"It's easy for a counterfeiter to make something look like cream without containing the expensive ingredients someone is buying it for," says Halloran. (The same warning holds for anti-aging creams and lotions, which are another common counterfeit category.)

Baby formula

That chalky taste may in fact be chalk, which is commonly used as a filler to give the fake product the right consistency, Halloran says. Of course, fake baby formula isn't likely to have the recommended levels of protein and other nutrients, either. Both factors can be problematic: In 2004, more than 60 Chinese infants died after ingesting fake formula. The Food and Drug Administration warns that infants may be intolerant of such ingredients and could "experience serious adverse health consequences."


Toothpaste

The Food and Drug Administration warned consumers about Chinese-made toothpaste in 2007, saying it contained a poison used in antifreeze. That's still a common adulterant, and one that you don't want to put near your mouth, let alone ingest, Halloran says. Other unsafe-for-consumption chemicals may be used, too, either as a way to make the paste white or to create the right consistency, she says. Pastes may also lack fluoride or can be contaminated with bacteria.

Shampoo

It's not just pricey salon brands that are at risk for counterfeiting. Labels found at the drugstore have caught fakers' attention, too, Halloran says. Some are little more than water, fragrance and a thickening agent, but anything that suds -- notably, cheap cleaning solutions -- can be substituted for the actual shampoo.


Late last year, Beijing police seized more than 2,000 boxes of faux shampoo bottles that were contaminated with sulfur, as well as mercury and other heavy metals. That's too harsh for a product that's going on your scalp and possibly dripping near your eyes, Halloran says. (And shoppers can forget about any label-promised moisturizing, volumizing, color-protecting or anti-dandruff effects.)

Perfume

In December 2011, police in Monroe, Ohio, seized more than 500 bottles of fake perfume from local flea markets, with mimicked scents ranging from $85 Chanel bottles down to $40 Beyonc√© scents. What's inside a replicated perfume bottle is anybody's guess, Halloran says. At best it is a perfume, but one that smells nothing like a designer scent and may have been watered down. Fakes more often contain chemicals like antifreeze, cleaning solutions or human urine, any of which may cause a rash or other skin problems. 

Honey

Recent tests by Food Safety News found that 75% of store honey isn't really honey. It still comes from bees, but the pollen has been screened out, ostensibly to keep the honey from crystallizing. Food safety experts say this may also be done to hide the honey's origin, says Andrew Schneider of Food Safety News. Many regulators don't consider the food honey if there's no pollen, but there could be more serious problems, too While shoppers might not notice a taste difference, tests found that a third of the faux-honey imports from Asia were tainted with lead and antibiotics.

Maple syrup

Vermont's U.S. senators recently announced they would co-sponsor a bill to make it a felony to sell fake maple syrup as the real thing. Violators could face up to five years in prison. Fakes may be made in part, or entirely, from cane sugar rather than the more expensive maple sugar. The big risk here is financial -- a gallon of real maple syrup can run $30 or more.

http://money.msn.com/family-money/7-ordinary-items-now-counterfeited

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