Operation OPSON

Operation OPSON is a Europol INTERPOL joint operation targeting fake and substandard food and beverages. Police, customs, national food authorities and private sector partners in 77 countries took part in the annual action which most recently ran from December 2019 through June 2020.


The operation has resulted in more than €100 million worth of potentially dangerous food and drink being seized. In addition 672 people have been arrested and about 16,000 tonnes and 33 million litres of potentially harmful food and drink confiscated.


In Bulgaria, an investigation by police and the food safety agency into an unregistered warehouse found seven samples of cheese which tested positive for E. coli. Some 3.6 tonnes of unsafe dairy products set to be processed into melted cheese were destroyed.


At more than 5,000 tonnes, animal food was the most seized product in 2020, followed by alcoholic beverages, cereals, grains and derived products, coffee, tea and condiments. Large amounts of saffron were also detained in Europe and in the US; authorities seized 147kg of raw apricot kernel seeds sold as a cure for cancer.


The Covid 19 pandemic also showed adapting trends towards unsafe items being placed on the market. As part of operation OPSON authorities discovered thousands of fake medical products, including disinfectants and 17,000 false COVID-19 testing kits. In addition a shipment of seafood seized in South Africa originating from Asia was falsely declared as personal protective equipment.


Both European and national legislations on intellectual property rights and food safety were enforced during the operation. The operation OPSON is embedded within the EU Policy Cycle (EMPACT priority).


Operations like this highlight the need for strong food safety leadership within food businesses to ensure food safety. Practices such as choosing reputable suppliers and delivery checks are essential to ensuring food safety. Staff should be trained and competent to carry out their roles. The EHAI and a number of our trainers continue to run our food safety and HACCP courses via video link or zoom during the Covid – 19 Pandemic. For full details on the training process and how to book an EHAI training course please view the following link https://ehai.ie/blog/cov/ or contact us at 01 276 1211.