Monkey meat and painted olives top Interpol’s fake food seizure list

Italian officers recovered more than 85 tonnes of olives which had been ‘painted’ with copper sulphate solutions to enhance their colour. Interpol

Care for an Italian olive painted with copper sulphate solution? How about some Sudanese sugar sprinkled with fertilizer? Those are just a couple of the “menu items” on Interpol’s annual list of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies around the world.

This year, a record 10,000 tonnes of fake food and drink was seized across 57 countries. In one case, more than 310,000 illegal food products were discovered hidden behind piles of tiles in a Malaysian warehouse.

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A raid of a Bolivia warehouse turned up thousands of sardine cans, alongside fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand ready to be applied.

Some of the most stomach-churning finds include:

  • Several kilograms of monkey meat (found by customs officers in a Belgium airport)
  • 24 tonnes of imported tilapia not fit for human consumption (in Togo)
  • 20 kg of caterpillars and 11 kg of locusts (in France)
  • 70 kg of chicken intestines drenched in formalin, which is prohibited as a food additive (in Indonesia)
  • 30 tonnes of beef and buffalo meat not fit for human consumption, and destined for sale in supermarkets (found in Thailand)
Police in Thailand recovered and destroyed more than 30 tonnes of illegal beef and buffalo meat unfit for human consumption which had been destined for sale in supermarkets. Interpol

The haul also included a lot of adulterated alcohol, as well as bogus dietary supplements being sold online that contained harmful ingredients.

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“Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially dangerous goods,” said Michael Ellis.

He’s the head of Interpol’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit, which co-ordinated the international efforts.

European law-enforcement agency Europol, which co-ordinated the seizures along with Interpol over the past three months, says counterfeit food is “a multi-billion dollar criminal industry.”

With files from The Associated Press

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