China has managed to stay out of the most recent international food scare over traces of horsemeat found in Burger King beef patties and other products, but its reputation for unsafe food still can’t seem to change. The most recent flap involving a popular Chinese snack and previously a cultural symbol of wealth, walnuts, raises concern among Chinese snackers.
So-called "fake" walnuts shells that have been filled with small rocks have been found circulating in Chinese markets. According to Business Insider, the actual edible nut is removed and replaced with paper and concrete and then glued shut again. The scam allows sellers to double profits by enabling them to sell not only the fake nuts but also the edible nutmeat separately.
And while China is known for its robust counterfeit industry, producing fake luxury items like leather goods, electronics and DVDs, walnuts hardly seem like a hot-selling unattainable product.
However, according to the Business Insider report, walnuts have become extremely expensive because of the growing status symbol that they hold.
Historically, walnuts were used by emperors and the wealthy who would hold the misshapen shells in their hands to improve circulation.
According to a report by Reuters, pairs of walnuts that can be given as gifts -- because of a special shape or because they are especially large, often waxed to preserve them -- can cost up to 60,000 yuan, or roughly $10,000. Hu Zhenyuan, a legitimate walnut seller, said that walnuts that used to cost 350 yuan 10 years ago can cost up to 3,500 yuan.
However, the fake walnuts that were discovered are not being sold as novelty items or gifts but rather, in marketplaces, to people who intend to actually eat them. But of course, won't.