The ninth operation of its kind, it took place from December 2019 to June 2020 and involved law enforcement authorities from 83 countries and was also supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission, the Office Union for Intellectual Property (EUIPO), national food regulatory authorities and private sector partners.
Counterfeit and substandard food and drink can be found on store shelves around the world. The increase in the online sale of potentially dangerous products poses a significant threat to public health, authorities said.
Operation OPSON was created to fight the organized crime involved in this area. This year’s operational activities found a disturbing new trend to address: the infiltration of low-quality products into the supply chain, a development possibly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s Operation OPSON led to the dismantling of 19 organized crime groups involved in food fraud and the arrest of 406 suspects. More than 26,000 checks have been carried out. As a result, around 12,000 tonnes of illegal and potentially harmful products worth around 28 million euros ($ 32.4 million) were seized.
With more than 5,000 tonnes seized, animal feed was the most seized product, followed by alcoholic beverages (over 2,000 tonnes), cereals, cereals and derived products, coffee and tea and condiments.
The focus on dairy products involved the Bulgarian, Italian, French, Greek, Portuguese and Swiss authorities.
The project resulted in the seizure of 320 tonnes of contraband and substandard dairy products. National authorities seized rotten milk and cheese, posing a threat to the health of consumers. In addition, 210 tonnes of cheese were seized, which did not meet the conditions to be labeled with a protected geographical name.
A Bulgarian investigation into an unregistered warehouse revealed seven cheese samples that tested positive for starch and E. coli. Authorities seized 3.6 tonnes of dangerous dairy products, which were supposed to be processed into processed cheese.
INTERPOL Secretary General JÃ¼rgen Stock said: âAs countries around the world continue their efforts to contain COVID-19, the criminal networks that distribute these potentially dangerous products are only showing their determination to turn a profit. The sheer scale and variety of food and drink seized during this operation reminds members of the public to be vigilant about what they are buying, and the need for continued vigilance and action by the forces of the ‘order. “