Operation Opson is organised every year. The aim is to remove counterfeit and non-compliant food and drink products from the market and to dismantle the organised crime groups behind them.
The participating services (police, customs and national food control bodies) carry out checks in shops, markets, airports and seaports in order to detect and seize counterfeit or non-compliant food products that could seriously harm the health and safety of consumers.
A new OPSON XII operation targeting food fraud was carried out between December 2022 and April 2023. Coordinated by EUROPOL, 25 countries took part in this operation.
The operation in figures, seizures and activities :
8,000 tonnes of illicit products seized
6.5 million litres of mainly alcoholic drinks
143 arrest warrants issued
168 search warrants executed
119 individuals reported to the judicial authorities
6 criminal networks dismantled
The main products seized, in order of quantity, were alcoholic beverages, cereals, grains and derived products, fruit, vegetables and pulses, sweet and confectionery products, meat and meat products, seafood, dairy products and food supplements and additives.
Among the frauds identified :
In Spain, 3 individuals exported invert sugar-based products, which they presented as grape derivatives and concentrated grape juice. This manoeuvre enabled them to double or even triple their selling price and profits. The main export destinations were countries outside the EU, mainly South Africa. 2 tanks containing 1.08 tonnes of invert sugar with a retail value of €1.3 million were seized.
Trafficking in tainted food throughout the EU :
In Lithuania, a company was recycling spoiled or out-of-date foodstuffs from France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and Spain. The foodstuffs were illegally relabelled. 54 people were arrested and a total of more than 1.5 million packages were seized.
Meat and fish :
In Spain, 2 individuals were charged with offences against public health, forgery and fraud for trafficking in ham without traceability and with a manipulated use-by date. The operation resulted in the seizure of 48,896 kg and 3,000 pieces of ham and sausage.
A criminal network trafficking in out-of-date meat, fish and seafood was also dismantled. The suspects were falsifying the labelling and trafficking in foodstuffs without going through the mandatory regulatory process. In all, 8 arrests were made, 48 individuals were investigated and identified, and more than 25 tonnes of food products were seized and destroyed.
In the UK, the authorities carried out checks on food products with protected designations. The checks identified cases of non-compliance with products such as feta, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano cheeses, as well as meats such as Prosciutto di Parma and products of British origin such as Welsh beef, Cornish pasties and watercress. The checks identified labelling errors, the temporary unavailability of a specified ingredient in restaurants, and a lack of awareness of the regulations governing the use of protected food names.
Your Phytocontrol laboratory offers food authentication and physico-chemical analyses to identify food fraud. You can consult our COFRAC technical appendix N°1-1904 available in your customer area or on the COFRAC website.
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