Fish and wine in Italy feature in JRC summary on food fraud

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Proteste, a Brazilian consumer association, found issues with olive oil in quality tests
Proteste, a Brazilian consumer association, found issues with olive oil in quality tests

Related tags: Olive oil

Issues with fish and wine in Italy dominate the first monthly report on food fraud and authenticity by the Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The European Commission's science and knowledge service said the monthly round-up was launched to inform stakeholders of potential cases and give them the opportunity to counter the issue.

Consumers have the right to make informed decisions about the food they purchase. Agricultural products of high commercial value have been traditionally the target of fraudulent malpractices.

“Prevention of fraud and promotion of authentic products is important to assure the commercial success of European high-value agri-food products on international markets and to ensure that consumer rights are protected.” 

Fish and wine fraud

The report covers September and features three reports concerning fish in Italy.

One involved 700kg of Bluefin Tuna and Swordfish​ potentially coming from Sicilia discovered with no label of origin in Monfalcone in Northern Italy.

Products were in a bad shape and were meant for markets in the Friul Venezia Julia region.

The second was 700kg of fish and seafood​ being seized in a port of Sardinia, lacking documentation on origin. The incriminated company, from Naples, was fined €4500.

BVL and JRC symposium

BVL and JRC hosted a joint symposium in Berlin 27-28 October. Follow the event on Twitter with #futurechallenges or stay tuned for articles in future FQN newsletters

The last case featured a freezer truck close to Rome airport. It contained two tons of fish stored in 240 unlabelled boxes​. The goods, probably for Southern Italy, were seized and given to charity.

Two reports involved wine; the first reported on 1,176 bottles and 29,000 litres of unlabelled wine​ being seized and the other involved a truck transporting 20,000 litres of grape must​ stopped from southern Italy to Slovakia.

After producing false documents, the Czech driver admitted running a fraudulent activity and was fined €4000.

In Brazil eight out of 20 brands of olive oil failed quality tests, according to Proteste​.

Four contained other vegetable oils (substitution) and another four failed the sensory tests for extra virgin olive oil (mislabelling), said the consumer association, which requested non-compliant products be withdrawn from the market.

Methodology of report

The JRC said the report reflects media coverage and not the frequency of fraud in a particular country and/or concerning a particular product.

It presents articles in the media, from the Medical Information System (MedISys), the JRC-developed internet monitoring and analysis tool, based on the Europe Media Monitor.

The second source is the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal.

Foods searched for are olive oil, fish, organic products, grains, honey, coffee, tea, spices, wine, certain fruit juices, milk and meat.

These items are on the list of commodities often subject to fraud as defined by the EU Parliament.

The first summary features two articles covered by FQN – the Oceana report suggesting one in five seafood samples globally are mislabelled and Consumentenbond’s report on the situation in the Dutch market.

The advocacy organization reviewed more than 200 published studies covering 55 countries.

They found mislabeling at retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing in an update to a 2014 analysis.

Consumentenbond said governments and industry must take measures to combat food fraud after the group found authenticity issues in Dutch products.

A total of 156 items from categories known to be susceptible to authenticity problems were checked and 21% showed 'deviations'. It found a lot of issues in Manuka honey, lamb and olive oil but less in oregano and cod.

The term 'deviations’ was used to refer to authenticity problems found. If other product groups had been tested it is possible fewer deviations would have been identified, said the association.

More details on Operation Opson V

Meanwhile, Europol and INTERPOL have released more details on the results of OPSON V​ in a report presented at a debriefing meeting hosted by Spanish authorities in Madrid on 20–21 October and adopted by participating countries.

interpol opson
Picture: Interpol. In Greece, officers discovered 3 illicit factories producing counterfeit alcohol.

The agencies said quantities of counterfeit or substandard food and beverages seized exceeded previous editions, due to the unprecedented number of countries and partners from the private sector and reflecting a growing awareness of the food fraud problem.

The biggest category was condiments, representing 66% of the seizures reported in tonnes and 20 out of 57 participating countries reported seizures of this type of products.

It includes vegetable oils, vinegar, salt, pepper, spices, variety of sauces and seasoning products. In Italy, 7,000 litres of alleged extra virgin olive oil were seized, Thailand reported the seizure of 423,000 litres of smuggled palm oil and 1.5 tonnes of smuggled mayonnaise in Colombia.

Fruits and vegetables are the second most affected category, affecting 15% of all seized goods. They were seized in 13 countries across all regions.

Law enforcement agencies noticed one new area was adding copper sulphate and other illicit substances to enhance the look and feel of products.

More than 526 tonnes of olives were seized in Italy after having been ‘painted’ with copper sulphate solution to enhance their green colour, amounting to an estimated value of €2.5m.

An investigation in Sudan identified a criminal network involved in sugar trafficking. Officers identified a warehouse in Khartoum where 8.6 tonnes of counterfeit sugar contaminated with fertilizers were stored

More than 385,000 litres of alcohol was seized in all areas and illicit factories were dismantled, showing the involvement of organised crime in this trafficking.

Burundi reported the seizure of more than 36,000 litres of prohibited beer; in the UK, authorities recovered nearly 10,000 litres of fake or adulterated alcohol including wine, whisky and vodka; in Italy, the Carabinieri seized more than 75,000 litres of sparkling wine containing propylene glycol.

Following complaints about a branded whisky, an investigation by Zambia police led to the dismantlement of a criminal network.

Stolen branded whisky materials including boxes, bottle caps and sealing tapes had been used to package illegally produced alcohol. In total, 35,500 bottle caps, 429,000 labels, 99 carton boxes, 2,250 litres of ethanol and 900 bottles of counterfeit whisky were seized

The annual operation is supported by customs, police and national food regulatory bodies and partners from the private sector. It began in 2011 with just 10 countries.

Related topics: Beverage, Market Trends

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