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$250M of Fake, Substandard Foods Seized in Global Operation

In Denmark, the operation focused samples of olive oils sold in supermarkets to check their compliance with labeling regulations. Results showed that many of the 'virgin olive oils' tested were blends or lampante oil.

Authorities in Indonesia discovered a factory producing a range of fake condiments and sauces in unsanitary conditions. (Photo: Interpol)
May. 9, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi
Authorities in Indonesia discovered a factory producing a range of fake condiments and sauces in unsanitary conditions. (Photo: Interpol)

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In a joint oper­a­tion between INTERPOL and Europol, €230 mil­lion of coun­ter­feit and sub­stan­dard food and bev­er­ages were seized. The oper­a­tion, which was car­ried out across 61 coun­tries, unveiled a wide range of food fraud across prod­ucts rang­ing from olive oil to luxury goods and alco­holic drinks.

Criminals will fake any type of food and drink with no thought to the human cost as long as they make a profit.- Françoise Dorcier, INTERPOL

Operation OPSON VI tar­geted the crim­i­nals behind fraud­u­lent food prac­tices and uncov­ered new trends in food fraud. Counterfeit min­eral water was among the fake prod­ucts detected during the global oper­a­tion.

In a press release, Françoise Dorcier, Coordinator of INTERPOL’s Illicit Goods and Global Health Programme said, “This oper­a­tion has once again shown that crim­i­nals will fake any type of food and drink with no thought to the human cost as long as they make a profit. Whilst thou­sands of coun­ter­feit goods have been taken out of cir­cu­la­tion, we con­tinue to encour­age the public to remain vig­i­lant about the prod­ucts they buy.”

61 coun­tries took part in OPSON VI from December 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. Each coun­try car­ried out its own national oper­a­tion involv­ing police, cus­toms offi­cers, food reg­u­la­tory bodies and pri­vate sector part­ners.

A total of 50,000 checks were made on shops, mar­kets, air­ports, sea­ports and indus­trial estates. By the end of the oper­a­tion, 9,800 tons of food, 26.4 mil­lion liters of liq­uids and 13 mil­lion items had been seized.

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In Denmark, the oper­a­tion focused on olive oil. The Veterinary and Food Administration ana­lyzed sam­ples sold in super­mar­kets to check their com­pli­ance with label­ing reg­u­la­tions. Results showed that many of the “virgin olive oils” tested were in fact blends, or lam­pante oil.

Authorities in Norway and Austria also tested sam­ples of olive oil during the oper­a­tion. Their find­ings were not released but details will be reported later this year.

Participating coun­tries received spe­cific Europol train­ing on olive oil qual­ity prior to the oper­a­tion to aid them in detect­ing fraud.

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Fraudulent food oper­a­tions were found to be rife and wide­spread. In Germany, hazel­nut prod­ucts were found to con­tain unde­clared peanuts, while in France, fake sea­son­ing cubes were being passed off as a lead­ing brand.



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In Italy, min­eral water and wine came under the spot­light. 266,000 liters of fake min­eral water, pack­aged sim­i­larly to a trade­marked brand were dis­cov­ered. Counterfeit wine posing as a famous, pro­tected brand was also seized.

In Greece, five people were arrested fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of alco­hol smug­gled from Bulgaria. Around 1,300 liters of vodka and whiskey were seized.

In Portugal, sar­dines past their prime were packed in an unli­censed plant. Meanwhile, in Spain, clams unfit for human con­sump­tion were sold.

In Ireland, crim­i­nals were caught red-handed trans­port­ing unre­frig­er­ated, unpacked and unla­beled meat in a van along with tobacco and alco­hol.

61 coun­tries par­tic­i­pated in OPSON VI, a rise from 57 in 2016. This was the sixth suc­ces­sive joint oper­a­tion.