Food fraud: maxi seizure of food and beverages in global operation

Operation OPSON XI has led to the seizure of almost 27 000 tons and 15 million liters of counterfeit food and beverages.

The operation, which took place between December 2021 and May 2022, was led in Europe by Europol and outside the EU by Interpol. The operational activities were supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), European Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), as well as national food regulatory authorities and private-sector partners.

The series of OPSON operations targets criminal networks that profit from food fraud at the expense of consumer health and safety.

National authorities conducted checks in customs areas, physical and online market places, and across the food supply chain. The actions tageted mainly seafood fraud and alcohol/wine.

The number of seizures and activities reported to Europol:
26 800 tonnes of illicit products seized
15 million litres of alcoholic beverages
about 74 000 checks
80 arrest warrants
137 individuals reported to judicial authorities
175+ criminal cases opened
2 078 administrative cases opened
8 criminal networks disrupted

The main illegal products seized were (in order of quantity): alcoholic beverages; cereals, grains and derived products; fruits, vegetables and legumes; food supplements and additives; sugar and sweet products; meat and meat products; seafood; dairy products; poultry products.

The agency coordinated the activities in Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Norway.

Here below some examples of cases:
- the Italian NAS Carabinieri reported a winery that produced and marketed sophisticated and altered wine;
- the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) dismantled a criminal network selling molecularly modified gardenia as the highly expensive saffron spice;
- the Portuguese authority responsible for food safety and economic surveillance (Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica)  ran an operation against an illegal slaughterhouse, wehre the meat produced did not meet the minimum conditions for consumption.