Hundreds of tonnes of fake and substandard food and drink including champagne, cheese, olive oil and tea have been seized in an INTERPOL-Europol coordinated operation across 10 countries, effectively disrupting the organized criminal gangs behind this high profit-low risk activity which undermines legitimate business and puts the safety of consumers at risk.
Police, customs and national food regulatory bodies in addition to partners from the private sector were involved. They carried out checks in airports, seaports, shops and flea markets across the 10 participating countries.
Overall, more than 13,000 bottles of substandard olive oil, 30 tonnes of fake tomato sauce, around 77,000 kg of counterfeit cheese, more than 12,000 bottles of substandard wine worth EUR 300,000, five tonnes of substandard fish and seafood, nearly 30,000 counterfeit candy bars have been found. As this food is not subject to any manufacturing quality controls and are transported or stored without proper regard to hygiene standards, consumers put their health at risk consuming this food.
“One of the main goals of this operation was to protect the public from potentially dangerous fake and substandard food and drinks, which is a threat that most people are not even aware of,” said Simone Di Meo, Criminal Intelligence Officer with INTERPOL’s Intellectual Property Rights programme and coordinator for Operation Opson.
“Criminals will take advantage of any and every opportunity open to them, and this type of operation demonstrates the determination by law enforcement and the private sector to stop this type of criminality,” added Mr Di Meo.
The countries which took part are Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The Democratic Republic of Congo participated as an observer, with a view to conducting a pilot operation in Africa next year.