Millions of pounds of fake UK food and drink seized

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

In total 685t of illegal fish and seafood was impounded worldwide
In total 685t of illegal fish and seafood was impounded worldwide

Related tags Rice Uk

Millions of pounds of fake food and drink were seized in recent UK raids in a global crackdown on illegal products, with fish and seafood representing the biggest worldwide problem.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which coordinated the UK part of the global initiative, known as Operation Opson III, is poised to reveal further seizures shortly.

That suggests that hauls revealed last week, including £1M of counterfeit vodka and 22t of long grain rice billed as Basmati rice, are the tip of the iceberg.

A Europol statement said fish and seafood represented the largest category of food seized, constituting 685t of products that were poorly preserved, incorrectly labelled or lacking the required traceability documents. The figure represents more than half of the 1,200t of food impounded globally.

Counterfeit drinks

A total of 430,000 litres of counterfeit drinks were also seized across 33 countries, according to Europol.

Products seized internationally included more than 131,000 litres of oil and vinegar; more than 80,000 biscuits and chocolate bars; 20t of spices and condiments; 186t of cereals, 45t of dairy products and 42 litres of honey.

In total, 96 people were arrested or detained with investigations continuing in many countries.

‘Serious global problem’

“Most people would be surprised at the everyday foods and drink which are being counterfeited, and the volume of seizures shows that this is a serious global problem,”​ said Michael Ellis, head of Interpol’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods and Counterfeiting unit, which coordinated international police activities.

“Interpol is committed to turning back this threat to public health and safety by organised criminal networks which are making millions in profits which can then be channelled into other illicit activity such as human and drug trafficking,”​ added Ellis.

Opson means ‘food’ in ancient Greek and Opson III is the third such major food fraud clampdown since 2011.

News of the raids coincided with an announcement from Reading Scientific Services Limited (RSSL) that a project to develop DNA testing for a range of animal species had won government funding​.

The technology is designed to target food fraudsters who pass cheaper meat off as more expensive versions.

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