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Counterfeit food a 'serious threat' says EC

By staff reporter , 13-Nov-2006

Latest customs statistics show that food counterfeiting and piracy continues to be a growing threat in Europe.

In 2005, EU customs seized more than 75 million counterfeited and pirated goods.

Foodstuffs, medicines and other goods that can seriously damage the health of consumers continue to be faked in large quantities. Changes in the routes of fraud, an increased range of products being copied and the use of the internet in selling counterfeit goods make customs job even more challenging.

The European Commission said that its response is being implemented via the Community's Anti-Counterfeiting Customs Action Plan.

"A secret wave of dangerous fakes is threatening the people in Europe," said EU taxation and customs commissioner Laszlo Kovacs.

"The key is to be faster than the counterfeiters. We must quickly identify, and act to deal with, new routes of fraud and constantly changing counterfeit patterns to protect our health, safety and the economy."

Customs seized around 75 million articles in 2005, and the number of customs cases involving fakes increased to more than 26,000. Growth in seizures of fakes dangerous to health and safety also continued. For the first time ever, more than 5 million counterfeit foodstuff, drinks and alcohol products were seized.

Since the launch of the Commission's Customs Action Plan to combat counterfeiting and piracy, a number of actions have been initiated. These include targeted time limited Operational customs actions at major ports and airports in Europe.

A recently finalised customs action has already led to the seizure of more than 90 large maritime containers of fake products and more are expected.

Counterfeiting and tampering is a major issue for the food industry. It can undermine consumer trust in the quality and safety of a branded food product, leading to a loss in market share.

The private sector, through organisations such as Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the European Union (CIAA), has consistently advocated improved intellectual property protection as the key to EU competitiveness.

To this effect, the EU and US also took joint action last year against counterfeiting and intellectual property theft. Under the terms of agreement, the two blocs agreed to form closer co-operation through strengthening border controls, shared intelligence and forming special teams of embassy staff to search out counterfeiters.

Initial efforts of the joint programme have focused on China and Russia. EU and US representative say they also have major concerns in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

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