Counterfeit F&B worth €55m seized by Europol and INTERPOL

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Tuna for canning was treated with chemicals in Spain that altered colour to give impression of freshness. Picture: Europol
Tuna for canning was treated with chemicals in Spain that altered colour to give impression of freshness. Picture: Europol
More than 3,620 tonnes and 9.7 million litres of counterfeit or substandard food and beverages worth an estimated €55m were recovered by Europol and INTERPOL in the latest Opson investigation.

Counterfeit alcohol was again the most seized product in the seventh Opson operation.

Weevil-infested flour, rotten meat, chemically coloured tuna, fake baby milk powder and shrimp paste laced with pesticide were among the seizures.

Methanol added to alcoholic drinks, expired products for sale and unhygienic storage conditions were among offences detected.

More than 9,800 tonnes and 26.4 million litres of fake food and drink worth an estimated €230m were seized in the operation last year.

More than 60 factories shut down

Run over four months (December 2017 - March 2018) across 67 countries, OPSON VII involved more than 41,000 checks at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates.

In total, 749 people were arrested or detained with ongoing investigations in many countries.

Europol and INTERPOL said 49 criminal networks were dismantled and 66 illegal factories shut down.

The EU Food Fraud Network and 11 European countries were involved in action to tackle fraudulent practices in tuna fish​. Illicit practises included species substitution and selling tuna intended for canning as fresh.

Tuna intended for canning was illegally treated with chemicals to alter colour and give the impression of freshness. More than 51 tonnes of tuna were seized and 380 samples taken.

opson vii europol Interpol
Operation Opson VII coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL

Daoming Zhang, head of INTERPOL’s Illicit Markets unit, said the volume of products seized is a reminder the public needs to be careful about what and from where they buy items.

“The dismantling of nearly 50 criminal networks involved in the production of fake food and drink is an important result in stemming the flow of potentially lethal products into the marketplace.”

Police in Indonesia seized illicit alcohol after more than 60 people died from drinking bootleg booze. Investigations are ongoing to identify those involved in the supply chain.

In Russia, officials shut down 48 underground factories. More than 1.6 million litres of illegally produced alcohol was seized and criminal proceedings launched against 282 people.

Jari Liukku, head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, said results demonstrate what can be achieved when law enforcement agencies coordinate.

"It is a threat which requires such cooperation across borders, taking into account the increased integration and globalisation of supply chains. All countries face this threat and it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to make sure what consumers get in their plate is genuine and safe.”

Trichinosis, MSG, counterfeit baby milk and spices

In Bulgaria, officers confiscated pork contaminated with trichinosis – a parasitic disease caused by roundworms. Investigations revealed 12 people tested positive after eating infected meat.

Four people were arrested and a factory that packed counterfeit baby milk destined for China dismantled in Spain.

Eight tonnes of forged product were seized. The powder bought in bulk in Poland for €1 per kilo and delivered to Barcelona was not harmful but lacked nutrients needed by infants.

An investigation by police in South Africa dismantled an illicit factory manufacturing counterfeit spices and the arrest of 10 people.

Vietnamese authorities seized nearly 1.5 tonnes of Monosodium glutamate (MSG) which was fake or of unknown origin.

Officials also seized more than 10,000 kg of noodles containing borax and 6.7 tonnes of bamboo shoots and roots soaked in unidentified chemicals to make them appear fresh.

In China, an operation targeting substandard food supplements and falsified medicines sold online resulted in the arrest of more than 20 suspects.

Two factories and three warehouses were dismantled with more than 20,000 boxes of illicit supplements and medicines confiscated.

Related topics Beverage Dairy Food Safety & Quality

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1 comment

Purveyors of fake food

Posted by Douglas Lineham,

Any person involved in this trade and found to be accepting payment should have their life valued at the same level as that they had assumed of their potential customer, nil.
Such people have no place in this world and accordingly must be stripped of all their assets.

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