More than €117 million worth of potentially dangerous fake food and drink was taken out of circulation in the latest phase of Operation Opson.
The effort is a joint operation between Europol and Interpol which targets both substandard and counterfeit food and beverages. The collaboration of 78 countries in Operation Opson VIII, succeeded in obtaining 18.7 million offending items.
Incorrectly stored meat, tampered expiry dates on chicken and dairy, and controlled medicine added to drinks were among the products seized.
In Zimbabwe, authorities seized nearly 14,000 litres of soft drink. The beverages in question contained potentially deadly levels of the active ingredient in erectile dysfunction medication.
“Counterfeit and substandard food and beverages can be found on the shelves in shops around the world," said INTERPOL’s Director of Organised and Emerging Crime, Paul Stanfield. "Their increasing sale online is exacerbating the threat that food crime poses to the public."
For the first time, the operation investigated organic food products - or rather products claiming to be organic. According to the report, there is a growing trend of products being sold that do not meet any organic standards, so that they can be sold to consumers at higher prices.
“It is hurting the consumers’ wallets: in the best of cases, food fraud is the deception of consumers, whereby they pay for something they do not get, but in the worst cases, food fraud can result in serious harm to the public’s health" said Jari Liukku, Head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre.
"The volume of the seizures confirms that food fraud affects all types of products, and all regions of the world” he continued.
Counterfeit alcohol was among the top global offences. In Russia, more than 4,200 litres of alcohol were recovered from an illicit vodka production company.
In total, around 16,000 tonnes and 33 million litres of potentially dangerous fake food and drink were seized in the operation.