When discussing the "black market," most people think of illegal items -- stolen merchandise, drugs or weapons. The popularity of baby formula on the black market may be known to families who have purchased it in the last few years, but most people are not aware of the big problem of counterfeit laundry detergent. 
ABC News recently followed the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department on a raid that resulted in the bust of a mass operation producing counterfeit Tide in 5-gallon buckets. Law enforcement seized thousands of labels and hundreds of buckets of "detergent" that turned out to be mostly water.

Tide is targeted because of its perceived value from consumers. The Tide brand name is so esteemed that, according a 2013 article in New York Magazine, it easily commands 50% more in retail price than its nearest competitor -- and still outsells it by more than 2 to 1. 

As it turns out, counterfeit laundry detergent is an industry doing $500 billion per year in business. Lt. Geoffrey Deedrick, head of Los Angeles County's Counterfeit and Piracy team asked ABC News, "If you made just as much money selling counterfeit Tide as heroin, what would you choose? The Tide! [Because] you're not going to do 40 years in prison!" Procter & Gamble, the company that manufactures Tide, has helped law enforcement shut down more than 50 counterfeit factories in the last year.

Procter & Gamble's scientists confirmed that the counterfeit product is about as effective at cleaning clothes as plain water, but the damage done by these crimes results is more than dirty laundry: many of the 5-gallon products found for sale online were being sold as fundraising items by organizations that had no idea the products were fake. "We don't sell Tide in 5-gallon buckets," said Anne Candido, Procter & Gamble's Senior Communications Manager.

How can you tell if the Tide you're looking at is fake? If it's in a 5-gallon bucket, it's definitely fake, but beyond that it can be difficult to tell. Procter & Gamble's own scientists confirmed that the counterfeit looks and smells very much like the real thing. The best way to avoid purchasing a counterfeit product is to pay full retail price at an authorized Proctor & Gamble merchant, which is as close as your nearest grocery store.