olive oil (9)

Europol and INTERPOL coordinated operation OPSON 2020 which targeted trafficking of counterfeit and substandard food and beverages. The ninth operation of its kind, it ran from December 2019 to June 2020 and involved law enforcement authorities from 83* countries and was also supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), national food regulatory authorities and private sector partners.

Counterfeit and substandard food and beverages can be found on the shelves in shops around the world. The increasing online sale of such potentially dangerous products poses a significant threat to public health. Operation OPSON was created to combat organised crime involved in this area. This year’s operational activities have found a new disturbing trend to address: the infiltration of low-quality products into the supply chain, a development possibly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Condiments also a highly counterfeited product

This year’s operation OPSON led to the dismantling of 19 organised crime groups involved in food fraud and the arrests of 406 suspects. More than 26 000 checks were performed. As a result, about 12 000 tonnes of illegal and potentially harmful products worth about €28 million were seized. With more than 5 000 tonnes seized, animal food was the most seized product, followed by alcoholic beverages (more than 2 000 tonnes), cereals, grains and derived products, coffee and tea and condiments. Large amounts of saffron were seized: 90kg in Spain and 7kg in Belgium with an estimated value of more than €306 000. The US authorities seized 147kg of raw apricot kernel seeds sold as a cure for cancer. 

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#1 Focus on dairy products

The project resulted in the seizures of 320 tonnes of smuggled or substandard dairy products. National authorities seized rotten milk and cheese which posed a threat to consumer health. Additionally, 210 tonnes of cheese were seized, which did not meet the conditions to be labelled with a protected geographic denomination.A Bulgarian investigation into an unregistered warehouse revealed seven samples of cheese tested positive for starch and E.coli. The authorities seized 3.6 tonnes of unsafe dairy products, which were supposed to be processed into melted cheese.

#2 Targeted action on olive oil

A total of 149 tonnes of cooking oil was seized as a result of this targeted action led by Greece. About 88 tonnes from the seizures were olive oil and were reported by Albania, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Portugal and Spain. In Italy, during a check on a company producing olive oil, inspectors found a surplus of product, which was not registered in the official documents of the company, thus more than 66 tonnes of olive oil were seized.

#3 Targeted action on alcohol and wine

Law enforcement authorities, coordinated by OLAF, seized 1.2 million litres of alcoholic beverages, with the largest quantity being wine. Norwegian authorities seized more than 5 000 litres of vodka smuggled in a trailer.

#4 Targeted action on horse passports and horse meat

The operational activities focused on checks of documents of more than 157 000 horses from eight countries and about 117 tonnes of horse meat. Live animals and more than 17 tonnes of horse meat were seized from several slaughterhouses in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Inspections of slaughterhouses in several countries showed that about 20% of the foreign passports used for these horses showed signs of forgery. Competition horses with forged documents were also sent to slaughterhouses.

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5758031681?profile=RESIZE_400x The publication of the EU Food Fraud Network 2019 Annual Report was announced on May 19.The European Commission has given details of the proceduresof the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation System (AAC), and illustrated this with an example of an olive oil investigation. The AAC is an IT system developed and managed by the European Commission. An EU country can contact the competent authorities of another EU country and share information in a secure manner, which can lead to administrative actions, administrative sanctions or judicial proceedings. This exchange of information is an essential element for effective cross border investigation and for strategic assessment of the threat of fraud, which is at the heart of the exchange of information of the Food Fraud Network.

The 2019 Annual Report reveals that the top category of food investigated was fats and oils, with 44 recorded instances of administrative and investigative actions. Read the article here

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3823828176?profile=RESIZE_710xThis review provides general information about olive oil and the possible causes of adul­teration, mislabelling, counterfeiting, and fraud of the product. It reviews the possible adulterants in olive oil, the underly­ing causes of adulteration, and how to test for the pres­ence of these adulterants. Data on trade and market dynamics are included. Also, the review focuses primarily on current deceptive practices in the global olive oil trade rather than historical adul­terations.

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The Olive Oil Marketing Regulation requires that olive oils of mixed origin have to be designated as either EU and/or non-EU origin. In this study 2H/1H, 13C/12C and 18O/16O ratios were analysed in bulk olive oils using  isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) as well as 13C/12C and 2H/1H in the four main fatty acids (linoleic, oleic, palmitic and stearic acids) using IRMS coupled with GC (gas chromatography). The isotopic composition of olive oils was successfully used to distinguish samples originating in the two areas. When bulk data were combined with fatty acid isotopic data the differentiation power of the method was improved. The improvement is due to the specific isotopic fingerprint of the individual countries making up the EU and non-EU samples. 

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2017 will be a very bad year for olive oil. Two of the world’s largest olive oil producers have endured consecutive years of bad harvests. In Spain, an unusually hot and dry summer just led to the worst harvest in nearly 20 years. While Italian producers have suffered an outbreak of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria among olive groves, with more than a million trees infected. 

Read the full article at : Poor olive oil harvest in 2017

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Research by the Dutch Consumers' Association (Consumentenbond) shows that three years after the horse meat affair are still many problems with the authenticity of foodstuffs. The Consumentenbond investigated over 150 sensitive products, and 21% of them were not how they were described. The samples were analysed using the most up to date methods.

The study found problems with the following percentage of samples taken: manuka honey (50% ), lamb (47%), extra virgin olive oil (31% ), oregano (11% ) and cod (3%). 

In the lamb products study, 10 lamb curries, 10 servings of minced lamb and 10 lamb shawarma or kebabs were purchased. 14 of the 30 lamb samples  turned out not to be pure lamb. In 6 samples, there was no lamb found at all, only beef or turkey instead. In 8 other samples there was some lamb, but also at least 40% of other meat.

The report in Dutch can be found at: http://www.consumentenbond.nl/nieuws/2016/gesjoemel-met-voedsel-hardnekkig-probleem

A summary of the article in English can be found at: 

http://www.foodqualitynews.com/Industry-news/Authenticity-deviations-found-in-1-in-5-Dutch-food-samples

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