Fatema Tabasum

Fellow, Dismislab
‘Japanese Food Sample’ goes viral as Fake Cabbage
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'Japanese Food Sample' goes viral as Fake Cabbage

Fatema Tabasum

Fellow, Dismislab

Numerous videos and posts titled “Fake Cabbage” or “How to make Fake Cabbage” have recently surfaced on Facebook (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) and YouTube (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Upon thorough verification, Dismislab found that these videos do not feature actual fake cabbages. Instead, they showcase Japanese food samples or the process of creating them. These circulating videos have no connection to the production of adulterated food or counterfeit vegetables. In Japan, such ‘food samples’ are typically crafted for display or advertising purposes in restaurants or large food stores, with no intention for consumption or export.

A content creator shared a video, expressing concerns about fraudulent practices in the market: “Do you know how we are constantly being cheated? Fake cabbage is being made and sold in the market. We take that cabbage home and eat those after frying. Although this matter was secret before, now it has been leaked. All of you have to be cautious.”

Additionally, numerous similar videos, produced in Bengali, have emerged across social media platforms. Many of these videos discuss the chemicals allegedly used in the production of fake cabbage. Some even depict threats of consuming such cabbage, suggesting it can lead to deadly diseases like cancer. Furthermore, some contributors point fingers at China, accusing it of being involved in the production of fake food.

Dismislab’s verification uncovered the original video, as titled “Making Japanese Food Samples”. The video is a decade old. Within its 3 minutes and 29 seconds duration, the segment used to propagate misinformation was identified. Notably, the video clearly states “Making Cabbage Sample” on the left side, indicating its purpose in demonstrating the creation of Japanese food samples rather than real food.

The tradition of creating ‘Food Sample’ or model food, known as “shokuhin sanpuru (食品サンプル)” in Japanese, has been deeply ingrained in Japanese food culture for many years. Typically used for display or advertising in restaurants or large food stores, these samples are not meant for consumption, use, or export as actual food. They serve as visual aids to showcase menu items, and there is no information available suggesting their use or consumption as food.

A video clip in Bengali misrepresented the process, depicting a man pouring white and green-colored liquids into water in a frying pan. Within moments, the liquids congeal, resembling leaves. When folded, they take on a round shape similar to a cabbage. Then when cut in half it looks almost like a cabbage. 

However, the original video’s description clarifies the process. It documents the preparation of food samples for a Japanese restaurant’s menu exhibition in Gujo, Japan. The video reveals that plastic and wax are utilized to create ‘ultra-realistic’ model foods, with color added to enhance their appearance.

In 2016, the US-based fact-check organization Snopes released a report titled “Chinese ‘Synthetic’ Cabbages.” The report highlighted a video that purportedly showcased China’s mass-marketing of fake vegetables made of wax to unsuspecting consumers.

According to Snopes, the video, which surfaced on February 17, 2016, was published on a Facebook page called “The People’s Voice.” The video claimed to depict the rapid production of artificial synthetic ‘cabbages’ in China, with the caption suggesting that these products would soon be available in grocery stores.

The fact-check organization clarified in their verification report that ‘The People’s Voice’ had, in fact, disseminated misinformation about China to the common American reader and audience.

In 2014, a media outlet called Kotaku published an article entitled “The Hypnotic World of Fake Japanese Food, highlighting how videos on social media often misrepresent the process of making “fake food”.

Additionally, false information about the artificial production of fake eggs and rice has been spreading in Bangladesh over the last decade.

In 2017, the fact-check organization Jachai reported that “fake or plastic eggs are being imported from China into the Bangladeshi market, which is being mixed with normal eggs.” However, this claim was deemed unsubstantiated.

In 2022, Newschecker published a verification report titled “Plastic fake eggs being sold in the market? Know the truth about this viral claim”. Their verification revealed that the claim of plastic eggs or fake eggs was completely false.

Similarly, in 2021, Factwatch published a report regarding fake eggs and fake news. According to the Factwatch report, a circulating social media post claiming “Fake eggs are everywhere, know 10 signs to recognize poisonous eggs” was about 7 years old and lacked credibility.
In a separate verification report in the same year, Factwatch addressed rumors of fake plastic rice being sold in the open market instead of real rice. They stated: “Rumors of fake plastic rice being sold in the open market instead of real rice are occasionally heard. Many people have made various videos and uploaded them on Facebook claiming that their cooked unusual rice is made of plastic. But there is no evidence that any of them are made of plastic so far.”