Food fraud round up; alcohol, fish, olive oil, foie gras

GLOBAL – The Guardia di Finanza, an Italian law enforcement agency has seized over 4,500 bottles of smuggled alcohol and spirits between Como and Bergamo.

Among the goods seized are whiskey, tequila, rum, vodka and beer mainly produced in Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and Colombia. Discovered by the financiers of Como, were also some counterfeit items and half a ton of food products in poor condition.

Further, some 10 people have been poisoned with methanol in the Dominican Republic by the intake of adulterated alcoholic beverages; of those, six have died, representing 60 percent. At a press conference, the Head of the General Directorate of Epidemiology (Digepi), Ronald Skewes, said y that the cases have been registered in the provinces of Santo Domingo, Espaillat, Santiago, Montecristi, Valverde and Puerto Plata.

“The drinks linked to the event correspond to the modality of counterfeiting (…), they use an original bottle, they introduce the adulterated alcohol and sell it at prices very similar to the original, so the user does not suspect that he is facing a counterfeit,” he explained.

Fish and sea food fraud

The Military of the Naval Operational Section of the Guardia di Finanza of Taranto have also seized over a ton of “undersized fish”.

The activity was conducted along the State Road 106 in the direction of Ginosa Marina where a total of 1074 kilos of juvenile “Sardina Pilchardus”, a species also known as “Bianchetto”, were found.

The fish, transported in precarious hygienic conditions, was confiscated and made available to the veterinary doctor of the Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL) of Taranto who ordered its destruction for non-compliance with European regulations on “traceability”.

The activity led to the application of administrative sanctions for an amount of 50 thousand euros (US$ 53,310) .

The controls carried out by the Guardia di Finanza in the field of fishing and fish trade are due to the broader economic-financial police action of economic control at sea, also through its naval component, with particular reference to the protection of the fish resource and the protection of the market in the sector.

Guardia di Finanza is essentially responsible for dealing with financial crime and smuggling in Italy.

Oceana Mexico has also reported that dogfish and cod products are often substituted with other species of lower quality as a more expensive species.

The substitution rate was at 31% with fish mongers being the major culprits (43%) and supermarkets following suite at 17%.

In addition to those, Basa fish, imported mainly from Vietnam and China is offered as croaker and sole.

Mariana Aziz, Director of Transparency at Oceana pointed out that the substitution of species affects consumers due to the lack of information to decide on the species they consume.

She educed that since 2019, the approval process of the Fish and Seafood Traceability Standard has not advanced. She therefore called on the Head of Conapesca, Octavio Almada, to address the concern and approve the Traceability Standard.

In other news, the Vienna Customs Officers were able to secure almost four tonnes of products of animal origin in 2021.

Milk and dairy products accounted for around two tonnes, meat and meat products for around 1.8 tonnes, and fish, honey or other animal foods for the remainder.

Olive oil fraud

The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition as part of its operations to combat food fraud , has also identified the adulteration taking place in the sale of olive oil. The oil which is labelled as “virgin” or “extra virgin” was found to be contaminated with other vegetable oils.

The agency believes it carries a risk to consumers’ health because there are no safeguards about its origin or content.

Some of the brands implicated include Wafa virgin olive oil (2 litres), Maakoul olive oil, Riad Al Andalus virgin olive oil (1 litre), Maysae (1 litre), virgin olive oil with no label, sold in 5 litre bottles, La Noria extra virgin olive oil (5 litres), Zannouti 3131 extra virgin olive oil (1 litre).

Others are Virgen de la Salud virgin olive oil (500 ml, 1, 2 and 5 litres), Virgen de la Salud extra virgin olive oil (500 ml) and Rahouyi extra virgin olive oil (2 litres).

Meanwhile in Punjab, the health teams have seized 1400 kgs of adulterated food items under an ongoing drive against adulteration in food items in Punjab.

Punjab’s Health Minister Dr Vijay Singla said the health team seized 1480 kg spurious cheese in SAS Nagar besides another seizure of 620 kg of paneer in Samana town of Patiala district.

The inter-district teams of the health department have also collected 110 samples of milk, cheese, khoya, powdered milk, ghee and other food items in 13 districts in two days.

“No one will be allowed to play havoc with the health of the people of the state by selling adulterated or spurious food products,” said the Health Minister, adding that the Punjab government has adopted zero tolerance towards adulteration of food items in the state.

Foie gras investigation

A different investigation into the labelling and composition of foie gras products in France has revealed numerous cases of non-compliance.

Foie gras is a well-known French delicacy comprising of the liver of a duck or goose. The Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) noted non-compliance with the proportion of foie gras to be used in foie gras products, water content which was higher than the permitted levels.

The non-compliance rate for foie gras products was 75% and 46% for the blocks.

An earlier investigation in 2019 had revealed the same results concluding that ‘despite some progress’, anomalies still persist.

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