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Record seizure of illicit counterfeit fake food and drink

Italian olives painted with copper sulphate solution, Sudanese sugar tainted with fertiliser, and hundreds of thousands of litres of bogus alcoholic drinks top Interpol’s annual tally of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies across the world.

Record seizure of illicit food and drink

Interpol and Europol conduct the biggest-ever global crackdown on fake food and drinks

The haul of bogus diet supplements, adulterated honey and formalin-drenched chicken guts makes for stomach-churning reading.

Masked customs officers monitor a screening area for international passengers at Newark airport, New Jersey image www.scamsfakes.com

Masked customs officers monitor a screening area for international passengers at Newark airport, New Jersey

A statement by Interpol on Wednesday said a record 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of hazardous fake food and drink had been recovered across 57 countries, with Australia also making the list.

False labelling proved Australia’s undoing when testing of 450 kilograms of honey revealed it had been blended or adulterated, and a consignment of peanuts had been repackaged and relabelled as pine nuts, posing a significant threat to allergy sufferers. Earlier this year, researchers claimed Australian honey was “contaminated”.

European law-enforcement agency Europol, which co-ordinated the seizures along with Interpol over the past three months, says counterfeit food is “a multibillion [dollar] criminal industry which can pose serious potential health risks to unsuspecting customers”.

Europol said it co-ordinates the Operation Opson initiative with Interpol, now in its fifth iteration, to protect public health and safety.

It involved police, customs, national food regulatory bodies and the private sector, and investigated shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates between November 2015 and February 2016.

A number of arrests were made worldwide and investigations were continuing, Europol said.

Italian law enforcement recovered more than 85 tonnes of olives, painted with copper sulphate solutions to enhance their colour image www.foodpassions.net

Italian law enforcement recovered more than 85 tonnes of olives, “painted” with copper sulphate solutions to enhance their colour

In Greece, Operation Opson V discovered three illegal spirit factories image www.foodpassions.net

In Greece, officers discovered three illicit factories producing counterfeit alcohol. Police seized equipment used in the manufacturing process including labels, caps, empty bottles in addition to more than 7400 bottles of fake alcohol and counterfeit labels.

In Britain, authorities recovered nearly 10,000 litres of fake wine, whisky and vodka. In Burundi, more than 36,000 litres of illicit alcohol were seized in addition to nine Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition, and three grenades which were recovered during the operation.

After police in Thailand carried out checks on an individual found to be transporting four tonnes of meat illegally imported from India, further investigations led to the discovery of 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.

Operation Opson V also confiscated several kilograms of illicit monkey meat at Brussels airport image www.foodpassions.net

Operation Opson V also confiscated several kilograms of illicit monkey meat at Brussels airport

International travellers importing illicit products were also investigated. Customs officers at Zaventem airport in Belgium discovered several kilograms of monkey meat and in France, officers seized and destroyed 11 kilograms of locusts and 20 kilograms of caterpillars.

Police in South Korea arrested a man smuggling fake weight-loss supplements estimated to have generated some $US170,000 ($221,000) in sales.

Hungarian food safety officials discovered more than two tonnes of duck meat, destined to be sold as goose liver for foie gras production image www.scamsfakes.com

Hungarian food safety officials discovered more than two tonnes of duck meat, destined to be sold as goose liver for foie gras production.

In Indonesia, officials seized 70 kilograms of chicken intestines which had been preserved in formalin, which is prohibited as food additive.

“Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world,” Michael Ellis, head of Interpol’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit, said.

“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 multibillion criminal industry,” said Chris Vansteenkiste, cluster manager of the intellectual property crime team, Europol.

In Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, and Romania, authorities discovered counterfeit chocolates, sweets and non-alcoholic sparkling wine aimed at children.

with AP

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Henry Sapiecha