"Rubber' cuttlefish incinerated in Hai Phong

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Fake dried shredded cuttlefish a common seasoned snack has been seized in Hanoi; authorities say they have yet to determine exactly what went into the counterfeit cephalopod.

"We sent some samples to a testing lab in Hanoi. They said that the product is not made from natural cuttlefish. We don't know what it is made from because the lab said it would take time and money for such tests," said Nguyen Thi San, vice director of the market watchdog agency of Hai Phong City.

On October 30, San's agency incinerated more than one ton of fake dried shredded cuttlefish they had seized from a coach in the northern city in April.

San said the seized dried cuttlefish showed no signs of spoiling after six months in the open. The vice director suspects that the product is made from a certain "special substance."

"We had to incinerate them because we were afraid that it is not biodegradable once buried and someone could dig it up to sell," she said, adding that the agency tried burning the cuttlefish and found it caught fire easier than natural product and smelled like burning fabric.

Another Hai Phong market management official said the phony dried cuttlefish had been smuggled from abroad and was being sold at local markets. However, he said his agency has been focusing more on busting up large shipments of the fish rather than those of small traders.

Many small traders told Thanh Nien that the knockoff snacks come from China and yield much better profits than legitimate cuttlefish.

Minh, a small trader at Ga Market in Ngo Quyen District said the dubious shredded cuttlefish began showing up around August 2009. Accoring to Minh, some traders offered to sell the stuff for VND80,000 (US$4.1) per kilogram - just one fourth the cost of the real stuff.

A trader at Do Market in Hong Bang District said she wouldn't dare to sell the product despite the big profits, for far her customers could get sick.

"That's Chinese dried cuttlefish," she said. "I don't know what they could possibly make it with, to produce something so cheap. Some told me it is made from cellulose."

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