interpol (6)

10023628285?profile=RESIZE_710xJohn W. Spink, PhD , a Food Authenticity Network Advisory Board Member, has published a review of INTERPOL/ EUROPOL Operation OPSON IX Final Report 

While the thousands of tons of seized fraudulent product get the headlines, the most crucial result of Operation OPSON is the insight on the shifting food fraud vulnerability. The report has both general information and detailed case studies (and amazing crime scene pictures).

INTERPOL/ EUROPOL Operation OPSON IX was conducted from December 2019 and extended beyond the expected end date of April 2020 to June 2020. The next OPSON X debrief occurred in November 2021 (a future blog post will review that private meeting, and our presentation on “Food Fraud Prevention – Priority Setting to Reduce the Overall Fraud Opportunity”.) The final Operation Opson IX – Analysis Report was published in January 2021.

Read the full review here.





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9929965484?profile=RESIZE_710xDepleting fish stocks are having a detrimental impact on the world’s biodiversity and food chain. According to INTERPOL’s environmental and maritime security teams, which coordinated a five-month intelligence-led operation (June- October 2021) spanning 34 countries and all ‘Seven Seas’, the decrease in marine living resources are also driving a surge in fisheries-related crime.

A total of 1,710 inspections carried out during the one-month tactical phase of Operation IKATERE uncovered over 100 cases of fisheries and other crimes. More than 40 arrest warrants have already been issued, while many investigations remain ongoing.

Nearly one tonne of illicit products were seized worldwide, including protected fish and wildlife species, drugs and explosives. Law enforcement in Montenegro alone recovered more than 20 cylinders of explosives during the operation.

“The use of explosives as an illegal fishing method is a growing trend amongst the industry’s unscrupulous actors, as the progressive depletion of fish stocks pushes vessels to maintain catch rates at any cost,” said Ilana De Wild, INTERPOL’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime.

“Their use also boosts the circulation of explosives that can be used by criminal or terrorist groups. Bomb makers behind terrorist attacks in recent years have been found to also be providing explosives to the illegal fishing industry,” Ms De Wild added.

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A law enforcement operation jointly coordinated by INTERPOL and Europol has highlighted the vast quantities of illicit food and beverage products circulating throughout the global economy.

Codenamed OPSON X, the operation mobilized police, customs, national food regulatory authorities and private sector partners to undertake coordinated enforcement actions between December 2020 and June 2021 against illicit food and drink posing serious health risks to consumers.

Operation OPSON X saw law enforcement globally net 15,451 tonnes of illegal products, with an estimated street value of EUR 53.8 million.  Nearly 68,000 checks were carried out by the 72 participating countries, resulting in more than 1,000 criminal cases being opened.                                                                                                                                                       
The enforcement actions have uncovered a wealth of new leads for food crime investigations. More than 600 arrest warrants were issued during the course of the operation, which is estimated to have disrupted the activities of 42 organized crime groups around the world.

The most seized goods in Operation OPSON X were alcohol and food supplements, followed by cereals and grain products. Alcoholic drinks were the most commonly counterfeited according to seizure results, as well as products protected by trademarks, geographic indications or appellations of origin.

Though not directly targeted in the operation, enforcement actions also turned up other illicit items, including fake test kits for COVID-19, HIV and malaria, cigarettes, weapons and ammunition, bush meat and other products of wildlife crime.

In Russia, police discovered a case containing more than 12,000 copies of pirated computer software, valued at around EUR 100,000. Meanwhile, Namibian authorities detected 24 irregular migrants during their actions carried out under OPSON X.

The most common types of food fraud include:

  • mislabeling (42 percent)
  • replacements/dilutions/additions/removals in product (20 percent)
  • unapproved treatment and/or process (16 percent)
  • document failings that are either falsified or manipulated (15 percent).

Further information on OPSON X.


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Europol and INTERPOL coordinated operation OPSON 2020 which targeted trafficking of counterfeit and substandard food and beverages. The ninth operation of its kind, it ran from December 2019 to June 2020 and involved law enforcement authorities from 83* countries and was also supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), national food regulatory authorities and private sector partners.

Counterfeit and substandard food and beverages can be found on the shelves in shops around the world. The increasing online sale of such potentially dangerous products poses a significant threat to public health. Operation OPSON was created to combat organised crime involved in this area. This year’s operational activities have found a new disturbing trend to address: the infiltration of low-quality products into the supply chain, a development possibly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Condiments also a highly counterfeited product

This year’s operation OPSON led to the dismantling of 19 organised crime groups involved in food fraud and the arrests of 406 suspects. More than 26 000 checks were performed. As a result, about 12 000 tonnes of illegal and potentially harmful products worth about €28 million were seized. With more than 5 000 tonnes seized, animal food was the most seized product, followed by alcoholic beverages (more than 2 000 tonnes), cereals, grains and derived products, coffee and tea and condiments. Large amounts of saffron were seized: 90kg in Spain and 7kg in Belgium with an estimated value of more than €306 000. The US authorities seized 147kg of raw apricot kernel seeds sold as a cure for cancer. 


#1 Focus on dairy products

The project resulted in the seizures of 320 tonnes of smuggled or substandard dairy products. National authorities seized rotten milk and cheese which posed a threat to consumer health. Additionally, 210 tonnes of cheese were seized, which did not meet the conditions to be labelled with a protected geographic denomination.A Bulgarian investigation into an unregistered warehouse revealed seven samples of cheese tested positive for starch and E.coli. The authorities seized 3.6 tonnes of unsafe dairy products, which were supposed to be processed into melted cheese.

#2 Targeted action on olive oil

A total of 149 tonnes of cooking oil was seized as a result of this targeted action led by Greece. About 88 tonnes from the seizures were olive oil and were reported by Albania, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain. In Italy, during a check on a company producing olive oil, inspectors found a surplus of product, which was not registered in the official documents of the company, thus more than 66 tonnes of olive oil were seized.

#3 Targeted action on alcohol and wine

Law enforcement authorities, coordinated by OLAF, seized 1.2 million litres of alcoholic beverages, with the largest quantity being wine. Norwegian authorities seized more than 5 000 litres of vodka smuggled in a trailer.

#4 Targeted action on horse passports and horse meat

The operational activities focused on checks of documents of more than 157 000 horses from eight countries and about 117 tonnes of horse meat. Live animals and more than 17 tonnes of horse meat were seized from several slaughterhouses in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Inspections of slaughterhouses in several countries showed that about 20% of the foreign passports used for these horses showed signs of forgery. Competition horses with forged documents were also sent to slaughterhouses.

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3211761143?profile=RESIZE_710xThirty-three countries*, INTERPOL, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) joined forces in the Europol-coordinated operation Viribus for a massive crackdown on the trafficking of doping materials and counterfeit medicines. The operation, led by the Italian NAS Carabinieri and co-led by the Financial Unit of the Hellenic Police (Ελληνική Αστυνομία), is the largest action of this kind ever.

Overall results during the entire operation:

  • 3.8 million illicit doping substances and counterfeit medicines seized (seizures included doping substances, dietary supplements, medicines and sport and food supplements);
  • 17 organised groups dismantled;
  • 9 underground labs disrupted;
  • 234 suspects arrested;
  • 839 judicial cases opened;
  • Almost 1 000 individuals reported for the production, commerce or use of doping substances. 

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Ten thousand tonnes and one million litres of fake food and drink seized in largest ever global operation in 57 countries  during Joint Interpol - Europol Operation "Opson V" from November 2015 to February 2016. The Europol news release gives an overview of food fraud operations across the world.

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