Huge haul in Texas, Amazon’s promise, and the smell of fake cheese

© shakishan / Fotolia.
In Texas, officials have achieved a spectacular success; authorities in Germany and Spain also report large seizures; four online retailers, including Amazon and Alibaba, promise to do more against fakes; and researchers aim to identify fake cheese by its smell. Our news in brief.

USA: hundreds of thousands of fakes confiscated in Texas
Authorities in Laredo, Texas, have intercepted large quantities of illegal goods in May and June. In mid-June, special agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) had identified several shipments in a three-day surveillance campaign, all of which were addressed to fictitious delivery addresses. Subsequently, the HSI agents confiscated almost 800 boxes containing over 180,000 counterfeit products. Already in May, the HSI had delivered another blow to the same counterfeiting ring; at that time, around 80,000 forgeries had been secured. The confiscated products include textiles, electronics, cosmetics and jewelry, with a value of around 50 million euros. Among the numerous infringed brands are Adidas, Apple, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, LG, Samsung and Sony, for example. According to HSI, the products were imported from China and may have been on their way to Mexico.

German Customs stops counterfeit imports from Turkey
Officials of the Düsseldorf Reisholz customs office seized a large consignment with a total of approximately 60 kg of counterfeit goods. The fake goods, which were on their way from Turkey to Germany, were illegal reproductions of textiles and shoes of well-known brands. Among other things, the investigators turned suspicious because of the low value stated: the entire delivery of two large bags was supposed to have cost only 150 euros.

Thousands of fake DFB jerseys confiscated in Spain
Spanish customs and the Guardia Civil in El Arenal on the island of Mallorca have seized around 6,000 fake jerseys of the German national football team. The imitations, which were already confiscated during the World Cup, have a market value of around 180,000 euros. Investigations by the authorities had already begun at the end of May, when officials were informed of the sale of counterfeit football items around Palma de Mallorca. The authorities were subsequently able to identify the warehouse used for storing the counterfeits. In addition to the fake jerseys, they also confiscated other items in the design and with the emblem of the German national team.

Alibaba, Amazon sign EU Product Safety Pledge
Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, and Rakuten France have signed a voluntary commitment of the European Commission. With the so-called Product Safety Pledge, the major online retailers commit themselves to do more against dangerous and counterfeit products sold by third parties via their platforms. The twelve measures which the Internet retailers want to implement include a faster response to complaints (within two working days for notifications from authorities and within five working days for notifications from customers) as well as better information and training for vendors trading on the platforms. The progress of the initiative is to be reviewed every six months and a report will be published. The EU Commission now hopes that other online traders will take part too. “I call also on other online marketplaces to join this initiative, so that the internet becomes a safer place for EU consumers,” said EU Commissioner Věra Jourová.

Researchers recognize counterfeit cheese by its smell
A new device distinguishes fake and genuine Parmesan cheese by analyzing the so-called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by the cheese. The research team of the University of Brescia, the Italian Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources, and the company Nano Sensor Systems wants to offer a fast and innovative authentication method that does not harm the examined cheese. Parmesan is considered one of the best-known and most frequently counterfeited cheeses; worldwide, 20 to 40% of the cheeses sold as Parmesan are said to be counterfeit. The US market seems particularly prone: While around 100,000 tons of alleged parmesan were sold there in 2013, only 6,500 tons of parmesan were exported from Italy into the USA. The new authentication technology, which analyses 58 different substances, can distinguish genuine Italian Parmesan cheese with a reliability of 80% from cheese produced in the USA or Germany.

Sources: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE); Hauptzollamt Düsseldorf; Economia de Mallorca; Europäische Kommission; Securing Industry

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