Some foods make sense to fake. Imitation crab has been a cost-effective substitute for real crab for decades. Adding wood pulp to grated parmesan is a simple, if controversial, way to boost the bottom line on an expensive cheese. And hell, if you can pass off horse meat as Kobe beef, and don’t mind doing the jail time if you get caught, that’s basically free money. But eggs seem like an odd product to fake—unless we’re talking about the Fabergé kind. Chicken eggs are readily available and affordable, and in the US, eggs are at their lowest price in a decade. But according to reports coming out of India, the country has recently seen an influx of fake eggs, most likely from China, and the less palatable and potentially unhealthy fakes look so convincing, some people are swearing off eggs entirely.
If you’re thinking, Of course I could tell fake eggs from natural eggs, you may want to stop rolling your eyes and instead direct them to the video below posted by Malaysia’s The Star Online back in 2011. In the clip, the president of the Consumers’ Association of Penang shows just how difficult detecting fake eggs can be to the naked eye. The colors and shapes are similar with only slight differences, and once cracked, even the separate artificial whites and yolks can be convincing.
According to IndiaToday, artificial eggs have become especially prevalent in Kerala, an Indian state located on the country’s southwest coast. The eggs have reportedly been popping up in stores and supermarkets, with some consumers mistakenly purchasing the fakes before complaining about the subtle differences: shells that are hard to crack and contents that become rubbery when cooked.
State Health Minister K K Shailaja has announced a probe into the situation. “I will now ask the Food Safety Commissioner to seriously look into these media reports that such a product is available,” Sakshi Post quoted Shylaja as saying. “It would be nice if someone comes up and provides a sample of it so the tests can be conducted quickly.” Though previous fake eggs have come from China, the source of these particular eggs appears to be undetermined, and no eggs sales have been restricted in Kerala. It’s left some residents avoiding eggs all together, even in restaurants.
Fake eggs have been produced in China since the mid-‘90s, according to a 2012 Time article, and back in 2005, they could be produced at about half the cost of real eggs. Beyond the ingredients sounding unappetizing—resin, starch, coagulant, pigments, and sodium alginate extracted from brown algae for the egg white; a different mix of resin and pigments for the yolk; and paraffin wax, gypsum powder and calcium carbonate for the shell—it’s believed that ingredients in artificial eggs may also cause liver, brain, or nerve issues.
Your best bet: Take extreme caution when purchasing eggs in Kerala. Actually, from what I’ve heard, you may want to take caution when eating anything in India. But for now, be especially vigilant with your eggs.