In an operation spanning 26 countries across the continent, Europol police units seized 26,800 tons of illicit food products and 15 million liters of alcoholic beverages, Europol reported on Thursday.
The raids conducted between December 2021 and May 2022 also resulted in the arrest of 80 people, and more than 175 criminal cases were opened.
“From rotten tuna to fake vodka with methyl alcohol and counterfeit vitamins, illegal food and beverages are a serious threat to EU citizens, who are often unaware that they are consuming poisonous products,” Europol wrote in a press release.
“To detect criminal activities, the national authorities conducted checks in customs areas, in physical and online marketplaces, and across the food supply chain. Operational actions focused on seafood fraud and conducted targeted actions on alcohol and wine,” the law enforcement agency added.
In one case, Italian police shut down a winery that was producing altered wine; they were adding sugar and water to cheap wines and putting expensive labels on the bottles to trick consumers. In that raid, police seized the winery, along with 1 million liters of wine. In addition, 11 cars were seized from the alleged crooks.
In another raid in Spain, police discovered a criminal network selling chemically altered gardenia as the significantly more expensive saffron. During that raid, police arrested 11 people and seized 10,000 tons of gardenia extract. If the gardenia had been sold on the market as saffron, police estimate it would have been worth €750,000.
In Portugal, the national food and safety authority, Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica, raided an illegal slaughterhouse and confiscated 60 piglet carcasses. As the meat produced there could not be traced back to its origin, Europol ihndicartes that “it did not meet the minimum requirements and was deemed unfit for consumption.”
The Portuguese authority also seized meat with expired consumption dates and repackaged as fresh.