A two-part investigation across several EU Member States has unveiled a criminal network who operate by reintroducing expired food into the supply chain. In total, law enforcement officials have arrested 27 criminals responsible for this relatively new criminal practice that jeopardises the health and safety of European consumers. Exploiting vulnerabilities in the supply chain initially induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the suspects started acquiring immense quantities of expired food and beverages. They would then chemically erase the expiry date printed on the individual items and reprint a new one. In other cases, a whole new label was forged and applied, giving the impression that the packaged food or beverage was still fresh and safe for consumption. Relabelled food and beverages may not only be unenjoyable but even dangerous for human consumption, and could pose a serious risk to public health.
This specific modus operandi was discovered and further pursued within the framework of OPSON, a large-scale investigation into the food industry coordinated by Europol. The ensuing investigations pursued by Member States and coordinated by Europol led to two targeted operations.