Organized crime in Spain laundered millions of euros by selling saffron adulterated with dyes and herbs, some of these adulterants being unfit for human consumption. Spanish police with the assistance of Europol busted an importer who adulterated imported saffron threads and sold them with the high-end La Mancha region designation. The supply chain for the organized crime scheme was operating across the EU, with 17 arrests made in the sting operation.
Blackbeard the Pirate would have refused to drink this: Counterfeit rum worth more than $4 million was seized by the Spanish police, and 24 criminals were arrested. The imitations were so real that the fake rum even made it into Spanish tax warehouses via the Netherlands. No injuries have been reported thus far. However, counterfeit alcohol often contains toxic methanol which can lead to severe injuries and even death.
Organic produce is a lucrative and growing market and an easy target for food fraud. Mislabeled organically certified pistachios were bringing in up to 80% more revenue than conventional nuts, resulting in a €6 million profit. European officials including Europol uncovered the illegal operation and made 14 arrests in Spain. Forensic analysis showed that the pistachios contained illegal pesticides.
Fake brandy based on corn distillate was purchased by a Spanish company based in Georgia and was exported to other EU countries with falsified documentation. Fortunately, this alcohol fraud did not pose a health hazard like many other alcohol fraud cases. However, the economic gain for the fraudulent brandy was going to be huge, since a volume of 4 million liters of “brandy” was exported. EU regulations state that brandy is supposed to be based on wine distillate only, which costs up to four times more than distillate made from corn.
The 2013 horse meat and lasagna scandal, and the 2018 kiwi fraud issue are just some of the product traceability cases that are under public scrutiny in France. For the second time in France’s Lot-et-Garonne region, strawberries labeled French turned out to originate in Spain. Part of the harvesting labor was outsourced and was therefore more difficult to track. This makes it easier for mislabeling and food fraud to enter smaller-scale agricultural and agricultural cooperative businesses.
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