Law enforcement agencies from 83 countries have eliminated 19 organized criminal groups and arrested 406 suspects during a six-month operation aimed at illegal trafficking in counterfeit and substandard food and beverages, Europol said.
“Operating activity this year has revealed a new disturbing trend: the penetration of low-quality products into the supply chain, which may be related to the COVID – 19 pandemic,” Europol said.
Authorities conducted more than 26,000 inspections and seized about 12,000 tons of illegal and potentially dangerous products worth about €28 million ($32,4 million), the report said.
This included 5,000 tons of counterfeit animal food and large quantities of alcoholic beverages, cereals, cereals and derivatives, coffee, tea and condiments. Police also confiscated 90 kilograms of saffron in Spain and seven kilograms in Belgium, with an estimated value of more than €306,000 ($355,000).
US authorities also seized 147 kilograms of raw apricot seed that was sold as a cancer drug.
The Agency noted an increase in sales of such potentially dangerous products on the Internet.
“In times of crisis, criminals are always looking for new ways to abuse consumers and increase their illegal profits … Counterfeit and low-quality products are not only false for consumers, but can also pose a significant threat to their health,” explained Catherine De Bolle, Director of Europol.
The main products that the authorities focused on were dairy products, olive oil, horse meat and alcohol. Fakes with a potential threat to human health, such as rotten milk and cheese, were withdrawn from the market.
Law enforcement agencies, coordinated by the European anti-fraud office, seized 1,2 million liters of alcoholic beverages, mostly wine. According to Europol, 5,000 liters of vodka were seized in Norway while being smuggled in a trailer.
Early anticorr.media reported that thousands of fake medical masks and medicines seized in the Middle East.