Thousands upon thousands of pounds of horse meat hamburgers, as well as “counterfeit” mozzarella, strawberries, eggs, and dried fruit and thousands of gallons of alcohol laden with antifreeze, and fake cooking oil were seized by Interpol, the agency said in a report.
The report, which said the operation was carried out in 47 countries over the past two months, could cast doubt on some of the food we eat. It revealed that a number of brand-name food items could have fake ingredients, counter to what is on the ingredients label.
“Of the nearly 275,000 liters of drinks recovered across all regions, counterfeit alcohol was among the most seized product, including in the UK, where a plant making fake brand-name vodka was raided,” said a release from Interpol.
“Officers discovered more than 20,000 empty bottles ready for filling, hundreds of empty five-liter antifreeze containers which had been used to make the counterfeit alcohol, as well as a reverse osmosis unit used to remove the chemical’s color and smell,” the release stated.
Interpol said that international criminal gangs are behind the slew of fake food items.
In Italy, 31 tons of seafood was labeled as “fresh” but was actually frozen and doused with a citric acid and hydrogen peroxide to hide the fact that it was actually rotting. Also in Italy, officers raided a cheese factory and found expired dairy that was then laden with chemicals to make it appear fresh.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials seized approximately 35 tons of counterfeit butter and closed down an entire factory that claimed to be selling tea.
And elsewhere, “Some 85 tonnes of meat illegally imported into Thailand without testing to ensure they complied with health and safety regulations were destroyed, and police also dismantled a criminal network producing fake whisky and seized nearly 20,000 liters of the counterfeit alcohol,” the policing agency said.
According to a report from Oceana in 2014, fake food items are on the rise across the world. For example, about 30 percent of the shrimp products are misrepresented.
“The issue stems in part from a lack of general information available when purchasing these products, the researchers said,” said TIME magazine’s Sarah Begley. ” In many cases, retailers and restaurants don’t offer information about the shrimp’s species or country of origin, or whether it was farmed or caught in the world. Oceana argues that improving traceability of seafood would help decrease label fraud and enable consumers to make sustainable choices.”
The countries that partook in the Interpol operation include Austria, Belgium, Benin, Belarus, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.