HUFFINGTON POST
01/10/2013 01:55 pm ET

Fake Shark Fins Are Widespread In China And May Be Poisonous, Says Investigative Report

The controversy surrounding the serving of shark fin in restaurants continues to swirl, but new reports may sway diners in China, at least.

An investigative report by Chinese news station CCTV Focus found that many eateries in Beijing, Guangdong, Zhejiang and Fujian are serving artificial shark fins made from mung bean starch, gelatine, sodium and various chemicals, all which give the characteristic mucilaginous appearance of shark fin. The station concluded that up to 40 percent of all shark fins eaten in China are actually fake.

Shanghaiist points out that shark fin soup is a luxury dish often served on special occasions, and fake ingredients -- bought for cents on the dollar -- help restaurants who parade them as the real deal to make a killing.

Worse still, the chemicals used to create some fake shark fins are often poisonous and could damage the diner's lungs and other organs.

In the U.S., shark fin is a controversial ingredient for several reasons. Many sharks targeted are endangered, and the practice of finning is considered wasteful by some because the fin is the only part culled from the animal. The E.U. has banned the practice, and the U.S. has strict rules against it.

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