30 million euros worth of seizures in first OPSON Europe. A record 143 arrest warrants were issued during the operational activities
The Europol-coordinated operation, OPSON Europe, took place between December 2022 and April 2023. This year’s operation is the 12th consecutive operation OPSON. The focus of this latest operation was the European market, where operation activities targeted food fraud in customs areas, physical and online markets (e-commerce platforms) and across the food supply chain. The operation involved law enforcement authorities from 25* countries (18 EU Member States and 7 European countries) and was supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE), the European Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), as well as national food regulatory authorities and private-sector partners.
Following the COVID-19 crisis, Europol highlighted the risks of fraud related to the recycling of spoiled or expired food to reduce production costs. This possible development was taken under consideration when planning the operation activities in the framework of the OPSON 2023 operation. National authorities involved in the operation performed checks of the food supply chain, while detecting a number of irregularities. During this year’s operation OPSON, the relatively new trend of relabelling expired food has been detected on an unprecedented scale. In the majority of cases, criminal organisations approach waste disposal companies and purchase food that should have been destroyed. They then erase the labels’ expiration dates and print new ones to replace them. The quality of the food is poor, but the food also present dangerous health hazards, as occurred in a case involving canned fish.