In a startling new case, over 10,000 tonnes and almost one million liters of illicit food and drinks have been seized from across 57 countries in an INTERPOL-Europol coordinated initiative aimed towards the protection of public health and safety.
The authorities carried out what they are calling Operation Opson V with the coordinated involvement of the police, customs, national food regulatory bodies and partners from the private sector.
Rigorous inspection was carried out at markets, shops, airports, seaports and industrial estates between November 2015 and February 2016, which eventually resulted in seizures ranging from almost nine tonnes of counterfeit sugar contaminated with fertilizer in Khartoum, Sudan to Italian officers busting more than 85 tonnes of olives which had been ‘painted’ with copper sulphate solutions to enhance their color!
Around The World In Plenty Fakes
Thailand – An individual was found to be tonnes of meat imported illegally from India following which further investigations led the authorities to an illicit network operating across 10 provinces. Officers recovered and destroyed more than 30 tonnes of illegal beef and buffalo meat unfit for human consumption, which had been destined for sale in supermarkets.
Greece – Three illicit factories were busted for producing fake alcohol. Police seized all equipment and other paraphernalia in addition to more than 7,400 bottles of fake alcohol and counterfeit labels.
UK – 10,000 liters of adulterated spirits including wine, vodka and whisky.
Burundi – The African country was found flocked with over 36,000 liters offake alcohol along with nine Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition along with three grenades.
South Korea – A man was arrested for allegedly smuggling dietary supplements, which were being sold online as natural product but in fact contained harmful ingredients.
Indonesia – 70 kilos of chicken intestine preserved in formalin – a prohibited food additive – was found.
Bolivia – Police stumbled upon a warehouse sheltering thousands of cans of sardines, with fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand ready to be stuck on.
Togo – Officials got rid of about 24 tonnes of tilapia which was found to be unfit for human consumption.
Zambia – 3200 cartons of diet power drinks with tampered expiration dates along with 1300 bottles of fake whiskey packed in original (stolen) packaging.
Image: BBC News
And Many More…
In addition to these major fraud busts, countries including France, Belgium, Australia among many others. Hidden away in the most innovative of ways, edibles like health supplements, honey and nuts worth over hundreds of thousand of dollars and tampered labels and other raw materials were retracted over a period of time.
“Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially very dangerous goods,” said Michael Ellis, head of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit which coordinated activities between the world police body’s participating countries across the globe.
“Today’s rising food prices and the global nature of the food chain offer the opportunity for criminals to sell counterfeit and substandard food in a multi-billion criminal industry which can pose serious potential health risks to unsuspecting customers. The complexity and scale of this fraud means cooperation needs to happen across borders with a multi-agency approach,” said Chris Vansteenkiste, Cluster Manager of the Intellectual Property Crime Team at Europol.
“This year again, the results from Opson clearly reflect the threat that food fraud represents, as food adulterations cut across all kinds of categories and from all regions of the world. Sharing knowledge in one market may prevent food fraud in another and ultimately helps protect public health and safety worldwide.”
The Opson Operations were launched in 2011 with 10 European countries in tow but over time it has spread to over 60 nations having busted thousands of tonnes of illicit consumables and god knows how much more still in circulation. But it’s a start.