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Record catch of illicit food and drink

Chase Winter
March 30, 2016

A global police operation has seized a record amount of illicit food and drink, including monkey meat, painted olives and sugar with fertilizer. Fake food and drink is a multi-billion euro criminal industry.

Schwarze Oliven
Image: Imago/imagebroker

Law enforcement from 57 countries seized 10,000 metric tons of food and 1 million liters of drink in a crackdown on criminal networks that pose a threat to public health, Interpol said on Wednesday.

"Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially dangerous goods," said Michael Ellis, head of Interpol's Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit.

Dubbed Operation Opson V, the joint Interpol-Europol operation conducted between November 2015 and February 2016 targeted criminal networks concerned only about "making a profit, no matter what the cost to the public," Ellis said.

Officers seized nine tons of sugar contaminated with fertilizer in Sudan, 85 tons of olives painted with copper sulphate in Italy and 70 kilograms of chicken guts preserved in the prohibited additive formalin.

Customs officers at Belgium's Zaventum airport found several kilograms of monkey meat, while in France officers seized 11 kilograms of locusts and 20 kilograms of caterpillars.

In Thailand, police seized 30 tons of illegal beef and buffalo meat unfit for human consumption and in Bolivia the operation found thousands of cans of sardines with fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand.

The operation also yielded dangerous fake alcohol across the globe.