The European Commission (EC) Conference on Combatting Food Crime, which is part of the Commission’s Better Training for Safer Food Initiative, was organised with the aim of improving communication between member states and driving the region’s fight against food crime.
Food-related offences includes the production, processing, distribution and marketing of products that disregard food laws.
The type of criminality is generally associated with countries such as China, but it is quickly becoming an issue in Europe, where nearly 2.5m counterfeit food and drink items were seized in 2009.
The conference comes just months after a Europol-led operation, which resulted in the seizure of masses of illegal food.
Organised crime “phenomenon”
“The conference aims to facilitate exchange of experience between competent authorities at Member State and European levels on existing legal and judicial instruments, and discuss possible improvement,” said an EC statement.
“This should lead to strengthened coordination between all actors and the identification and development of new strategies for combating food-related crime.”
The EC hope that the conference will lead to regular EU meetings on food-related crime.
“Sub-standard food products on the market could be the result of fraudulent practice simply negligence whereas fraudulent practices are the likely basis where counterfeit food products are concerned,” the statement added.
The presence of organised crime in the area of food, which generally peaks in the run up to Christmas, is a moderately new “phenomenon”.
This increased presence has been partly attributed to a lack of severe sanctions against such practices in Europe.
“As illegal practices in the area of food increase, it is clear that more information is necessary to combat the problem.”
The week-long Operation Opson, which involved police forces and officials from 10 EU member states, involved mass checks at airports, seaports, shops and markets across the continent.
Over 13,000 bottles of substandard olive oil, 12,000 bottles of substandard wine, 30 tonnes of fake tomato sauce and around 77,000kg of counterfeit cheese were seized during the operations.
Five tonnes of substandard fish and seafood and nearly 30,000 counterfeit candy bars were also detained.