Fake fruit gives Hong Kong buyer a sour taste

HONG KONG - Customs officers in Hong Kong have seized 5,200 oranges with suspected forged Sunkist labels in the city's first case of counterfeit oranges, reported the South China Morning Post.

The oranges were seized from two fruit stalls at a market after a buyer complained they tasted more sour than the real deal and had thicker skins. 112,000 forged Sunkist labels were also confiscated, some not yet stuck on the oranges.

While the genuine and counterfeit oranges look similar, one could tell them apart based on their label stickers - the real ones are made of plastic while the fake labels are printed on paper, said an officer from Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department.

The officer also said that paper labels were cheaper and easier to print than plastic ones.

According to South China Morning Post, the counterfeit oranges were imported from North Africa. Tests by government chemists have found them suitable to eat.

Genuine Sunkist oranges, usually imported from South Africa and California, cost HK$3 (S$0.50) to HK$4 each and are sold to customers at HK$5 to HK$6, according to the paper. The counterfeit ones cost HK$1 and were sold at HK$3 to HK$4 each.

The owner of the two stalls and three sales staff, aged 19 to 62, were arrested.

The last counterfeit fruit case in Hong Kong involved more than 130 boxes of watermelons seized in 2011. They were presented as having been imported from Malaysia, when in fact, they were from China.

Hong Kong law states that anyone selling or possessing goods with a forged trademark is liable to a fine of HK$500,000 and five years in jail.