European Cops Find Tons of Phony Food

Nov. 18, 2022
The latest in an annual operation by Europol and Interpol netted illegal products in dozens of nations.

A law-enforcement operation coordinated across 26 nations, most of them in Europe, has netted 26,800 tons of illegal food and 15 million liters of illegal beverages in a months-long investigation.

The action was called Operation Opson XI, denoting that it is the 11th in an annual series of enforcement actions against food and beverage fraud. It was undertaken between December 2021 and May 2022 by Europol, the law enforcement agency for the European Union, and Interpol, which handled it in non-EU countries; the results were announced Nov. 17. Operation Opson XI resulted in the issuance of 80 arrest warrants, with numerous detentions.

These and other law agencies conducted checks in customs areas, actual and virtual marketplaces, and across the food supply chain. Highlights of the operation include:

  • In Spain, a criminal network was broken up that sold “molecularly modified” gardenia extract as more expensive saffron, arresting 11 people and seizing 22,000 pounds of phony saffron.
  • In Portugal, police raided two homes illegally converted to hog slaughterhouses, which had no license or veterinary supervision and poor hygiene.
  • In Italy, authorities raided a winery whose proprietors allegedly doctored inferior wine with sugar and other flavorings, then labeled it as a higher-end and more expensive product.

The countries involved in the operation are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

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