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Toxic stew: Police seize millions of euros in fake food, drink

Some 230 million euros ($250 million) worth of “potentially harmful” counterfeit food products and over 26 millions litres of beverages were impounded in a four-month joint Europol and Interpol operation involving 61 countries, the two agencies said Tuesday.

In total 13 million items were seized, and 13 people arrested during 50,000 checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates from December 1 to March 31 in the sixth such annual operation, a joint statement said.

During the operation dubbed OPSON VI, German police cracked down on undeclared peanuts, cashew nuts and almonds mixed into imported hazelnut spreads and not labelled, which could have posed dangers for people with allergies.

“This operation has once again shown that criminals will fake any type of food and drink with no thought to the human cost as long as they make a profit,” said Interpol coordinator Francoise Dorcier.

In France, police seized 179,000 counterfeit seasoning stock cubes posing as a famous brand, the two agencies said. It was not clear if they were the Maggi brand, so beloved in French households.

And in Tuscany, Italian police swooped on an organised group producing counterfeit red wine in a Tuscan farmhouse. In a new trend they also flushed out 31,000 bottles of mineral water, imitating a registered brand, in a separate operation.

Investigations took a fishy turn in Portugal, where in a warehouse in Porto thousands of cans almost expired sardines in tomato sauce were uncovered. Some 311,000 cans were seized along with 9,900 packing boxes, and the business was immediately shut down.

Some 530 kilos (1,160 pounds) of dodgy clams “unfit for human consumption” were also found in Spain, while in Denmark investigators uncovered several samples of supposed virgin olive oil which did not live up to their labelling.

More than 1,300 litres of vodka and whisky were seized in two illegal sites in Greece, and a large quantity of unrefrigerated, unpacked and unlabelled meat was tracked down with alcohol and tobacco in Ireland.

“OPSON VI confirmed the threat that food fraud represents, as it affects all types of products and all regions of the world,” said Europol’s head of intellectual property crime Chris Vansteenkist.


AFP / Expatica