Dutch News

9 April 2014
Food mafia has free play in the Netherlands

Since criminal gangs are focusing on the trade in fake food, Europol did its third world wide research after food fraud this year. Especially fake olive oil, biscuits, chocolate bars, stock cubes, honey and grain were seized. But criminals are also messing around with meat and alcohol, which results in serious health risks. After heavy budget cuts the Dutch food authority does not have the personnel to do enough controls. It seems the food mafia has free play at the second largest food producer in the world.

This year Europol did its third world wide research after food fraud. The reason that food fraud gets a lot of attention is that criminal gangs are more and more focusing on the trade in fake food. Although other branches like drugs- and human trafficking bring in much more money, the demand for food is much larger. 'The criminal organisations are trying to spread the risk as much as possible. That’s why they are active in many different markets', the responsible Europol staff member explains. So It is not only the luxurious consumer goods that are counterfeited, now also food brands are faked.


This year the operation Opson (food in Greek) was organised for the first time in 33 countries in Europe, Asia and America. Customs officials have been doing field research in shops, on markets and in trucks. Looking for fraudulent food. Food that has been manipulated and where criminals have been messing around with. The catch was 131 thousand litres of olive oil and vinegar, more than 80.000 biscuits and chocolate bars, almost 150.000 stock cubes, 42 litres of honey, 186 tons of grain. All fake or of very bad quality. The estimate total value is more than 12,5 million Euro.


Some of these fake food products are sold in the large supermarket chains, but also end up on markets and in small shops that do not care much about safety- and quality. Although it is not clear how much fake food is produced and sold in Europe, it recently became clear in England that 30% of the labels on food products did not match the content. The Dutch consumers' association see an increase of trade in fraudulent food. A spokesperson: 'the fines are too low and the information of the offenders that get caught is never made public. Because of that we see more and more food scandals'.


Food fraud can be divided in three different kinds: fraud with brands, fraud with the origin and product fraud. Examples are liquor like Whisky and Vodka, ketchup, and for example tooth paste. Besides faking the brand, also the origin of a product is faked. For example champagne, cognac, cheese or olive oil that is not produced in the original regions in for example France and Italy. Thirdly consumers can really end up with products that are faked. Known examples are horse meat that is sold as beef, or fake caviar. Also a lot of fraud is committed with food that is sold as organic food.


The Dutch consumer association warns for serious health risks. Especially meat can be dangerous. Often meat of sick animals or meat with far too much traces of medicines is processed and sold . Also the trade in fake liquor is highly dangerous. In Russia and Asia, but also in Great Brittan, there have been many cases where people died after drinking fake alcohol polluted with chemicals.


Lately the Dutch research board for safety concluded that the safety of meat in the Netherlands is not guaranteed. After reforms and serious budget cuts over the last years, the Dutch food authority does not have the personnel to do enough controls. So it seems the food mafia has free play in the Netherlands, the second largest food producer in the world.


Source: De Volkskrant



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