Authorities in Indonesia discovered a factory producing a range of fake condiments and sauces in unsanitary conditions. (Photo: Interpol)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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