Food fraud: Joint Europol-INTERPOL Operation OPSON V Results Report

27 October 2016
Press Release
Press Release/News

Condiments top the list of seized counterfeit food in this year’s food fraud operation, reveals a joint Europol-INTERPOL report published today presenting the results of OPSON V which saw the largest seizure of counterfeit or substandard food and beverages to date.

Run over the course of four months (November 2015 - February 2016) across 57 countries, OPSON V resulted in the total seizure of 11 131.18 tonnes, 1 449 056.40 litres and 5 549 328 units of either counterfeit or substandard food and beverages as a result of checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates.
Targeting the organised crime networks behind the illicit trade in counterfeit and unregulated food and drink, this annual operation coordinated by Europol and INTERPOL is supported by customs, police and national food regulatory bodies in addition to partners from the private sector.

The report released today was presented at a debriefing meeting hosted by the Spanish authorities in Madrid on 20 – 21 October 2016 and adopted by all participating countries.

OPSON V - Key Findings

The key operational findings highlighted in the report reveal that:

  • The biggest seized category in food products is condiments, representing 66% of the seizures reported in tonnes. It includes commodities such as vegetable oils, vinegar, salt, pepper, spices, variety of sauces and seasoning products. 20 countries out of the 57 participating countries reported seizures of this type of products.  In Italy, 7 000 litres of alleged extra virgin olive oil were seized, and Thailand reported the seizure of 423 000 litres of smuggled palm oil.
  • Fruits and vegetables are the second most affected category, affecting 15% of all seized goods. They were seized in 13 countries across all regions. This year, law enforcement agencies noticed a relatively new criminal modus operandi consisting in adding copper sulphate as well as other illicit substances to enhance the look and feel of products. More than 526 tonnes of olives were seized in Italy after having been ‘painted’ with copper sulphate solution to enhance their green colour, amounting to an estimated value of EUR 2.5 million.
  • Alcohol remains a high risk product, with more than 385 000 litres seized in all areas and illicit factories being dismantled, illustrating the involvement of organised crime in this trafficking. Burundi reported major cases such as the seizure of more than 36 000 litres of prohibited beer; in the UK, authorities recovered nearly 10 000 litres of fake or adulterated alcohol including wine, whisky and vodka; in Italy, the Carabinieri seized more than 75 000 litres of sparkling wine containing propylene glycol.

Quantities of counterfeit or substandard food and beverages seized during OPSON V far exceeded the results obtained in previous editions, in part due to the unprecedented number of countries and partners from the private sector taking part in this initiative, reflecting a growing awareness of the problem of food fraud.

Read the report on OPSON V

The following countries participated in OPSON V: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, 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, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, Vietnam and Zambia.

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