Thousands of tons of counterfeit food seized

© chalabala / Fotolia.
Coordinated by Europol and Interpol, authorities of numerous countries have seized counterfeit and illegal food and luxury food products worth around 54 million euros. Fake alcohol was again particularly in the focus during the operation, called OPSON X.

Law enforcement agencies of a total of 72 countries1, including 26 EU member states, took action against the trade in illegal and counterfeit food between December 2020 and mid of 2021, in an operation codenamed OPSON X. In total, the investigators seized around 15,500 tons of illegal products worth around 54 million euros – next to alcoholic beverages, this e.g. included food supplements, meat, cereal products, fruit and vegetables, as well as sugar and confectionery. In last year’s OPSON IX operation, the investigators had confiscated considerably less with about 12,000 tons of suspicious food goods, worth around 28 million euros.

In the current operation, a focus was once more put on wines, beers, and spirits. In Europe, customs investigators and other authorities confiscated around 1.8 million liters of counterfeit or illegal alcohol products, coordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and with participation of 19 EU member states and three non-EU countries.2 In addition to around 215,000 liters of counterfeit alcoholic beverages, predominantly wine and vodka, a further 460,000 liters of alcoholic beverages and around 1 million liters of beer were seized due to tax or food safety violations.

Next to that, OPSON X also focused on fake or illegal honey, with around 51,000 kilograms of fraudulently treated honey seized. In addition, other illegal products not in the focus of the operation were seized, e.g. including counterfeit coronavirus test kits. In Russia, for instance, authorities also identified 12,000 items of pirated computer software, valued at around 100,000 euros.

“This action on counterfeit wine and alcoholic beverages demonstrated once again how successful cooperation between OLAF, Europol and national customs and police authorities can bring real benefits in protecting public revenues, legitimate businesses and the health and safety of consumers worldwide”, said OLAF Director-General Ville Itälä.

1 Afghanistan, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina-Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Eritrea, Estonia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Ghana, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Sudan, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam, Zimbabwe.
2 19 EU members (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain) and three non-EU countries (North Macedonia, Norway, and the United Kingdom)
Sources: Europol, Interpol, OLAF

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