Authorities in Spain and Germany have provided additional details about their involvement in Operation Opson X.
The annual crackdown is coordinated by Interpol and Europol with police, customs, national food authorities and private sector companies. From December 2020 to June 2021, the focus was on wine and alcoholic beverages, honey, horse passports and meat, and seeds and plants.
La Guardia Civil in Spain detained and investigated 120 people in 16 operations against food fraud.
Targeted actions in Spain and Germany
More than 600 tons of seeds and plants and 116,000 liters of spirits were seized.
In one operation, eight people were arrested and seven companies investigated as authorities uncovered the trade of bivalves, such as mussels and oysters, unfit for human consumption. This involved seizures of €120,000 ($141,000), 25 vehicles and 12 vessels by the Guardia Civil and Portuguese National Guard with Europol and Eurojust.
Other work involved a group commercializing horse meat judged not suitable for human consumption by using false documents.
Another operation on whiskey and alcohol resulted in 14 people being arrested or investigated. Officials also found three wineries involved in the fraudulent bottling and labeling of wines with more than 25,000 bottles confiscated.
The Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) in Germany revealed the focus was on the correct declaration of meat products and imported honey. Austria and Switzerland have previously published results of checks on honey.
In Germany, foreign sugar was detected in three of 73 honeys examined. In seven of 264 meat product samples, incorrect information was found for the species but the BVL didn’t give examples of the substitution.
During the checks on honey, the goods were seized in two cases and criminal proceedings have been started. Adulterations ranged from high amounts of added sugar in honey to false declaration of the composition of meat products and replacement of the declared type of meat with another type.
Counterfeit alcohol problem
European customs and police also seized nearly 1.8 million liters of wine and alcohol in an action involving 22 countries led by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
Officials seized more than 215,000 liters of counterfeit alcoholic drinks, mostly wine and vodka. Food safety frauds were also uncovered by the OLAF-led operation, resulting in seizures of 460,000 liters of alcoholic beverages and wine and more than 1 million liters of beer.
Ville Itälä, OLAF Director-General, said illicit, counterfeit and adulterated alcohol can cause real damage to law-abiding manufacturers and traders in the European Union and pose a health risk to consumers.
Away from Operation Opson, officials in the Netherlands seized various foodstuffs from a person in the province of Flevoland that were no longer suitable for human consumption.
A Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) investigation found the man stole the goods from a company that was planning to destroy them. He planned to sell them but was stopped by the NVWA, which supervised destruction of the products that included 17 liters of alcohol and sports nutrition products.
The discovery was made thanks to a criminal investigation into the trade of illegal plant protection products. As part of this inquiry, officials also found more than 100 kilograms of food during a search of two buildings in Flevoland. The suspect admitted to committing the theft while working for the company.
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