Fifth Report on Agri-Food Crimes in Italy

The annual report on organized crime in agriculture confirmed the efficiency of Italian law enforcement with greater international cooperation.

Mar. 31, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto

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More than 200,000 checks were car­ried out by Italian author­i­ties in 2016 to fight food crimes and lead the coun­try to the high­est level of food safety in the world. This was the find­ing from the fifth report on agri-food crimes by the Italian farm­ers’ group Coldiretti, the Institute for Political, Social and Economic Studies (Eurispes) and the Agromofia Observatory.

The State must be pre­pared to fight crimes which are increas­ingly on a global scale.- Franco Roberti, pros­e­cu­tor

A daily mon­i­tor­ing activ­ity was imple­mented by sev­eral law-enforce­ment agen­cies includ­ing the Carabinieri (anti-adul­ter­ation and anti-fraud units are now sup­ported by the Command Unit for the forestry, envi­ron­men­tal and agri-food pro­tec­tion CUTFAA, which was for­merly known as State Forestry Corp); the Organized Crime Investigation Service of Financial Police (SCICO); the Central Inspectorate for the pro­tec­tion of qual­ity and fraud pre­ven­tion of food prod­uct (ICQRF), and the Coast Guard.
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This sys­tem safe­guards not only the eco­nomic fab­ric but also the health of cit­i­zens, the envi­ron­ment and the ter­ri­tory,” said the pres­i­dent of Coldiretti, Roberto Moncalvo. In Italy, crim­i­nal activ­i­ties in the agri-food sec­tor come to light thank to a state of the art con­trol activ­ity.”

Moreover, Italian law enforce­ment ensures pro­tec­tion not only to national con­sumers but also through the inter­na­tional mar­kets, espe­cially since orga­nized crime started to exploit the many pos­si­bil­i­ties offered by the Internet.

Increasing atten­tion is being paid by con­trol bod­ies to the extra­or­di­nary devel­op­ment of the online food mar­ket over the past 5 years which facil­i­tated the pro­lif­er­a­tion of frauds such as so-called Italian-sound­ing” prod­uct mar­ket­ing — the use of words, images and geo­graph­i­cal denom­i­na­tions which evoke Italy to pro­mote prod­ucts that have noth­ing to do with the coun­try. These fac­tors helped push the annual turnover from agri-food crimes to €21.8 bil­lion, with a 30 per­cent increase.

In this regard, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry poli­cies have con­cluded two impor­tant agree­ments with the lead­ing e‑commerce plat­forms Alibaba and eBay, and obtained good results after talks with Amazon: On the basis of this under­stand­ing, the ICQRF made almost 400 inter­ven­tions on the three web­sites, with a 98 per­cent suc­cess rate, remov­ing items from vir­tual shelves with a total value of €60 mil­lion.


800 Italian prod­ucts mar­keted under pro­tected des­ig­na­tions of ori­gin, includ­ing 41 PDO (pro­tected denom­i­na­tion of ori­gin) and 3 PGI (pro­tected geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tion) extra vir­gin olive oils enjoy now a greater pro­tec­tion on the web.

According to the report, organic olive oil was the most con­trolled prod­uct by the Inspectorate for fraud pre­ven­tion, along with cere­als, fruits, and veg­eta­bles.

Among the most sig­nif­i­cant actions car­ried out dur­ing the last year to safe­guard the authen­tic­ity of liq­uid gold, the doc­u­ment men­tions Operation Mamma Mia, which led to the seizure of extra vir­gin olive oil fraud­u­lently labeled as Italian.

Along with the expan­sion of agri-food frauds at the inter­na­tional level, efforts to tackle them are directed by a more global col­lab­o­ra­tion: the State Forestry Corps, now merged into the Carabinieri, has pro­moted in recent years the Opson net­work (named after ópson, which means food” in ancient Greek), sup­ported by the Interpol and the European police office (Europol), in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Italian Minister of Interior.

Fifty-seven coun­tries have teamed up to col­lab­o­rate with police forces in inter­na­tional activ­i­ties, with a method­olog­i­cal approach that assim­i­lates agri-food crimes to intel­lec­tual prop­erty theft, since they rep­re­sent not only a food safety issue but also a vio­la­tion of tra­di­tional val­ues and col­lec­tive inter­ests.

In this sense, accord­ing to the national anti-mafia pros­e­cu­tor, Franco Roberti, a greater coor­di­na­tion of inter­na­tional strate­gies seems to be the right tool to defeat agropiracy. The har­mo­niza­tion in the con­trast of these crimes at the inter­na­tional level, as evi­denced in other sec­tors, is essen­tial to imple­ment effec­tive actions,” he pointed out.

Considering that large quan­ti­ties of prod­ucts are often con­cen­trated in the hands of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, he affirmed that the State must be pre­pared to fight crimes which are increas­ingly on a global scale.”

The report may be requested by con­tact­ing the Eurispes and the Observatory on orga­nized crime in agri­cul­ture and the agri-food sys­tem.

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