Interpol Seizes Record Amount of Fake Food

Though various international culinary schools may have differing philosophies on how to create the perfect dish, all chefs can agree on the importance of quality ingredients. However, according to a new report released by Interpol, fraudulent food is being processed and sold at an all time high. The organization worked in collaboration with more than two dozen countries around the world and revealed that between December 2014 and January 2015 it seized “more than 2,500 tons of counterfeit and illicit food.”

Horrifyingly, many of these products are incredibly common, including eggs, dried fruit, mozzarella cheese, cooking oil and strawberries. All in all, alcohol was the biggest offender. Interpol partnered with police and customs officers from around the globe, as well as government regulatory agencies. While Interpol’s investigation was widespread, it likely only touches the surface of potential fraudulent food practices.

Operation Opson IV
This year’s effort, under the name Operation Opson IV, more than doubled the seizure of last year’s similar crackdown. According to Time, officials seized 1,200 tons of illicit food across 33 countries in Operation Opson III. One of the most remarkable aspects of Opson is the level of international collaboration. In a news release, Chris Vansteenkiste, head of Europol’s Focal Point Copy who led operations in Europe explained:

“This year again, the results from Opson clearly reflect the threat that food fraud represents, as it affects all types of products and all regions of the world. Cooperation at national and international level is indispensable to disrupt the criminal gangs involved in this business.”

Interpol’s seizures and arrests help to disrupt organized crime rings that specialize in selling fake or unsafe goods. In the U.K., officers raided a factory in which fake brand-name vodka was being produced, and seized more than 20,000 empty bottles that were being filled with anti-freeze. The organization also shut down an illegal slaughterhouse in Hungary and seized approximately 20,000 liters of fake whiskey in Thailand.

The continuing efforts of Interpol and food agencies worldwide are particularly important to those in the food service industry. Moreover, such criminal activities highlight the importance of the growing farm-to-table movement, both in the U.S. and abroad. Sourcing local ingredients allows chefs to best ensure that quality ingredients are not being tampered with or diluted. By raising awareness with Operation Opson, Interpol is helping to rid the world of hazardous subpar food.

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