OPSON 2020: 15 000 tonnes of illegal food and beverages removed from the market

OPSON 2020 was a joint operation between Europol and INTERPOL that targeted the trafficking of counterfeit and substandard food and beverages. The operation, which was the eighth of its type, took place from December 2020 to June 2021 and involved 72 nations, including 26 EU Member States. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) also provided assistance, as did national food regulatory authorities and private-sector partners.  

During the operation, there were approximately 68 000 checks that have been done, 663 warrants, 2 409 location searches and 42 criminal networks that have been dismantled.  Overall, 15 451 tonnes of illegal goods were confiscated, with a total estimated worth of € 53.8 million. Among the most common illegal products seized in terms of quantity are alcoholic beverages, food supplements and additives, and cereals, grains, and derived products.  

“Counterfeit and substandard food and beverage can be found both on the physical market and sold online. The increased health risk for consumers is proportional to the reduced quality of raw materials used in the food processing system. Europol sees a recent development: low-quality products have infiltrated the food supply chain, an evolution possibly related to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 15 000 tonnes of illegal products seized, operation OPSON X illustrates the importance of cooperation between national authorities and the private sector in protecting consumers’ rights and the quality of the products we put on our tables”, Europol's Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, emphasized.