From painted olives to spiked sugar: global swoop on illicit food

30th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

A global police crackdown has seized over 10,000 tonnes of illicit or dangerous food and drink including monkey meat, dead insects and fake sugar spiked with fertiliser, the European police agency said Wednesday.

In Italy, officers seized 85 tonnes of olives "painted with copper sulphate to enhance their colour," while British police recovered nearly 10,000 litres of fake or adulterated alcohol, including wine, whisky and vodka.

The raids were carried out as part of Operation Opson V, which involved law enforcement from 57 countries as well as global policing agency Interpol and its EU counterpart, Europol said in a statement.

The crackdown from November to February -- hailed as the "largest-ever seizure" -- also uncovered one million litres of fake drink, enough to fill more than 12,000 bathtubs.

"Police, customs, national food regulatory bodies and partners from the private sector carried out checks at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates," Europol said.

At Brussels' Zaventem airport -- scene of last week's bomb attacks -- customs officials found several kilogrammes of monkey meat, while in France officers seized and destroyed 11 kilogrammes of locusts and 20 kilogrammes of caterpillars.

Nearly nine tonnes of counterfeit sugar contaminated with fertiliser was found in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, and in Burundi officers seized more than 36,000 litres of illicit alcohol as well as nine AK-47 assault rifles and three grenades.

In Greece, three factories producing illegal alcohol were closed down and more than 7,400 bottles of fake alcohol and labels were netted.

Thai police destroyed 30 tonnes of illegal beef and buffalo meat, unfit for human consumption, while in Australia testing on 450 kilos of honey found it had been blended or adulterated, Europol said.

In Indonesia, officials found 70 kilogrammes of chicken intestines preserved in formalin, prohibited as a food additive.

Bolivian police discovered a warehouse containing thousands of cans of sardines with fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand ready to be stuck on.

"Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially very dangerous goods," said Michael Ellis, who heads Interpol's trafficking in illicit goods unit.

"Today's rising food prices and the global nature of the food chain offer the opportunity for criminals to sell counterfeit and substandard food in a multi-billion criminal industry," added Europol's Chris Vansteenkiste.

First launched in 2011, Operation Opson grew from 10 European countries to encompass almost 60 countries worldwide.


© 2016 AFP

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