Interpol: Record finding of counterfeit food and beverages

© Interpol
In cooperation with national authorities, Interpol and Europol landed a successful blow against food and beverage counterfeits, confiscating more than 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of illegal food and beverages – more than in any previous operation of this kind.

Between November 2015 and February 2016, Interpol and Europol coordinated anti-piracy measures in more than 57 countries* around the world under the codename Opson V. In the course of the operation, more than 10,000 tonnes of illegal and counterfeit food as well as roughly one million litres of counterfeit beverages were confiscated, more than in any operation before. During the operation Opson IV in the preceding year, for example, 2,500 tonnes of counterfeit food were removed from the market (cf. our German-language report).

The raids were performed in harbours and airports, industrial parks, markets, and numerous businesses. Investigators in Sudan, for example, confiscated some nine tonnes of counterfeit sugar contaminated by fertiliser. In Italy, more than 85 tonnes of illegal olive oil were secured, which had been cut with vomit-inducing copper sulphate in order to alter its colour. Enforcement authorities in Italy as well as in Lithuania, Romania, and Hungary discovered counterfeit sweets and chocolate. In South Korea, for example, illegal food supplements were confiscated.

The operation also focussed on counterfeit beverages, including alcoholic drinks. In the United Kingdom alone, enforcement officials confiscated around 10,000 litres of counterfeit wine, whiskey, and vodka. In Burundi, more than 36,000 litres of counterfeit alcohol were secured. Three illegal factories were dismantled in Greece, where local enforcement officials found roughly 7,400 bottles of counterfeit alcohol as well as numerous labels, bottle caps, and empty bottles intended for the production of further illegal alcohol.

German officials also participated in an operation of this kind for the first time, albeit only with forces from Hamburg, Hessen, Thuringia, and Bavaria. There were nearly no discoveries in Germany, where the local inspections were concentrated on a few expensive types of fish. Consumer advocates, however, warned against the illusion that there is no counterfeit food in Germany.

In addition to Interpol and Europol, numerous national police and customs authorities, food regulation bodies, and representatives of private industries participated in the worldwide operations. „The complexity and scale of this fraud means cooperation needs to happen across borders with a multi-agency approach,“ summarised Chris Vansteenkiste, Cluster Manager of the Europol Intellectual Property Crime department. “Sharing knowledge in one market may prevent food fraud in another and ultimately helps protect public health and safety worldwide.”

*Countries which participated in Operation Opson V: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, United Kingdom, USA, Vietnam and Zambia.
Sources: Interpol, Europol, SZ

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