Fake Britain is a fairly long standing TV consumer program in the UK. The first time I tuned in it was enlightening. I already knew that counterfeit goods were a problem in the UK but I did not realise just how big a problem.
Dom Littlewood was the original host of Fake Britain and has appeared on quite a few consumer based TV shows, in the UK. He has the right amount of down to earth personality to make each show easy to understand but still make quite compulsive viewing. Matt Allwright has taken over the helm of Fake Britain and he also has the necessary experience.
In one series of Fake Britain each of the five shows related to a specific group of products. If it is shown again tune in and prepare to be amazed. Amazed in a terrible way though.
Many cigarettes in the UK are imported by all and sundry in an effort to avoid paying taxes. Of course such a trade needs a buyer and all too many British people offer a keen customer base. However most would assume that these goods are the real McCoy. In all too many cases they are not.
Counterfeit cigarettes often have a higher proportion of the cancer causing agents of normal cigarettes. Tests have shown that these cigarettes are topped up with rat droppings, sawdust and any old thing. The packaging does look authentic and to an untrained eye would be hard to spot.
The best advice is to buy from reputable suppliers. However the worrying aspect is many of these counterfeit products are making their way into the UKs retail industry. Sometimes it is unscrupulous shop keepers buying cheap products from the back of a van.
All of this is making the work of the British Customs and Trading Standards vital but difficult.
Fake Britain used Vodka as an example; fake Vodka bought by shop owners. Bought as cheap goods again from the back of a van the retailers must have sensed something was wrong. After all if something seems too good to be true it usually is.
The Vodka in question looked the part. However when the contents were tested all was far from safe and well. This fake Vodka had high amounts of methanol which could cause severe health problems. Side effects can be blindness, breathing difficulties, drowsiness and gastric problems.
Electrical hardware such as circuit breakers and sockets
Fake Britain took the viewer to a trade fair in China. Here various electrical sockets, plugs, circuit breakers and the like were on sale. The seller asked the buyer as many questions as necessary to determine which country the products were being taken to. This meant that they could blatantly add the necessary trading standards information.
The UK usually has numbers and registration details on genuine products and dealers in China simply add the appropriate markings without the product meeting the requirements.
This makes it hard to spot the fake. If the buyer back home is charged the going price, they may assume it is genuine. To the trained eye the products did look different as they were more flimsy and less substantial. Tests on a circuit breaker showed just how bad the fake product was.
Once again I hold my hands up in horror at the Chinese.
Suffice to say China will not be the only culprit but it is heavily involved in such counterfeiting. In order to make a fast buck non-regulated traders are able to jeopardise people's lives around the world.
One of the most worrying aspects was fake medicines. Again a Chinese man was found responsible for one potentially serious fake. A young diabetic girl became ill and it turned out that the needles which her Mum had bought from a Chemist, and which were provided by the NHS, were counterfeit. Apart from the illness caused her Mum was left worrying about possible infections.
And of course there were many instances of fake medicines being bought and sold online.
One man received a fake Viagra tablet, as a gift, along with heart medication. Even a genuine Viagra pill would have been unsuitable for this man. However, tests on this and other medication, showed some were fake and only a few were genuine. However, here the worry was that some of the genuine medication could be sold so readily on line. Without a full medical history, such medication could be lethal.
Even everyday soap powder, toothpaste and shampoo, for example, has been counterfeited. These products are often sold in markets or at car boot sales. They may be very cheap and the packaging often looks remarkably real. However the fake goods can cause many illnesses such as allergic reactions, rashes and breathing problems.
Of course there are so many more fake goods.
One of the saddest stories on the show involved a young boy. On holiday the family realised that the lad had left his Game-Boy charger at home so Mum bought him a new one. It looked to all intents and purposes real and it even had all the necessary Nintendo Logos on it. It was however fake. The young boy was electrocuted and died.
With current financial constraints all too many of us are looking for a bargain. We need to remember though that all too many people are also looking to make a quick and easy killing, quite literally.
Be alert and open-minded about your purchases. If in doubt do not buy. If you have already bought or received something that you are unsure about contact the trading standards.
Fake Britain is not a nice term and with a great effort perhaps we could become Great Britain again instead but I won't hold my breath.