Food fraud update at EU level and Interpol/Europol Opson VII operation preliminary findings

On 25 April 2018, Europol/Interpol published the results of the OPSON VII operation to which the EU Food Fraud Network contributed in particular in order to detect tuna intended for canning being fraudulently sold as fresh.

Justice, police, customs and food experts have been mobilised to investigate and to ensure the success of this operation in which 11 countries (Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Portugal, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) were involved. In some countries investigations took place on fishing vessels and in processing plants when, in other participating countries, extensive sampling plans took place at distribution and retail levels.

The case is about tuna for canning being illegally treated with substances that enhance the colour leading to a misleading impression of its freshness. This can represent a serious risk to public health, taking into account that the modification of the initial colour can mask spoilage allowing the development of biological amines (histamine) responsible for the so called scombroid syndrome in humans. Spain and France are also conducting judicial inquiries into tuna destined for canning and sold as fresh and on the illegal use of additives, the results of which cannot be disclosed at this moment. In total, more than 51 tons of tuna have been seized.

On the same topic, you can download also a Power Point presentation from DG Sante named Illegal treatment of Tuna: from canning grade to Sushi grade.

Coming back to Opson, the scale of this annual operation is growing ever year.

Run over the course of 4 months (December 2017 – March 2018) across 67 countries, OPSON VII resulted in the total seizure of more than 3.620 tonnes and 9.7 million litres of either counterfeit or substandard food and beverages as a results of more than 41.000 checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates. In total some 749 people were arrested or detained with investigations continuing in many countries.

“The results of OPSON demonstrate what can be achieved to protect consumers worldwide when law enforcement agencies join their efforts and perform coordinated actions”, said Jari Liukku, Head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, “It is a threat which requires such cooperation across borders, taking into account the increased integration and globalisation of supply chains. All countries face this threat and it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to make sure what consumers get in their plate is genuine and safe”.

“The dismantling of nearly 50 criminal networks involved in the production of fake food and drink is an important result in stemming the flow of potentially lethal products into the marketplace,” said Daoming Zhang, Head of INTERPOL’s Illicit Markets unit. “The volume of counterfeit and substandard products seized is a reminder to the public that they need to remain careful about what they buy and from where.”

A particularly disturbing case was discovered in Spain, where four people have been arrested and a factory that packaged counterfeit baby milk mostly destined for China was dismantled. Eight tonnes of the forged product were seized. The powder bought in bulk in Poland for one euro per kilo and delivered to Barcelona was not harmful but it lacked the nutrients needed by infants. It was also made in an environment that did not comply with food health and safety standards.

A final and detailed report on the results of the operation OPSON VII will be published in the upcoming months.

Recently on DG Sante website has been published also the Food Fraud Network (FFN) 2017 Annual Report, that shows an increment of the cases exchanged through the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation System (AAC) from 87 (2016) to the actual number of 597.

Moreover in 2017, the DG Sante launched a coordinated control plan on food sold online.

It was very well received by the Member States. On a voluntary basis, the authorities of 25 EU Member States plus Switzerland and Norway participated. The authorities checked about 1100 websites for certain products which are non-compliant with EU food legislation, namely for non-authorised novel foods and food supplements bearing medicinal claims.

They found 779 offers for such products, mostly from traders based in the country of the respective authority (65%), but also from traders located in other Member States (20%) or third countries, namely US and China (15%). Although this was not mandatory, in about 440 cases measures were taken with the aim to close the offer, including inspection of the traders’ premises, warnings and – in some cases – fines.

For non-compliant cross-border offers, administrative assistance was requested via the Administrative Assistance and Cooperation IT system (154 cases) and in case of health concerns notifications were issued via the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (139, of which 51 were notified to US and China).

The objectives of the plan were to encourage Member States to get more engaged in the control of the e-commerce food market, to cooperate more closely on non-compliant cross-border offers and to use for this cooperation the available IT systems.

The main findings of the plan are resumed by DG Sante as follows:

“The high percentage of non-compliant offers is a clear sign that the eCommerce control today needs to be strengthened. In this respect, the Commission has taken a number of actions in order to support Member States’ competent authorities in this new task of eCommerce control, such as:

  • training of staff in online investigations,
  • establishing contact points for cooperation with major trading e-platforms and market places including social media,
  • seeking cooperation with payment service providers and
  • adjusting legislation and electronic reporting systems to the needs of official eCommerce control.

However, further efforts are necessary, in particular to remind the main players of eCommerce such as platforms, payment services and the traders themselves of their responsibilities, to ask for their contributions to increase the safety of online offered foods and to reduce offers which mislead consumers”.

Most probably a second massive coordinate control plan on online offered food will be launched in a near future.

 

Food Supplement Regulation of China – Vitamins and Minerals list compared to EU

 

Thanks as usual to my guest writer KUN HOU (kunhou2016@gmail.com) for the valuable insights of China. This comparative article will be most useful to many readers.

Regulations concerning the nutrients used as ingredients of food supplements are under constant change and revision in China.

CFDA put forward its first official positive list of vitamins and minerals that might be present in food supplements in the beginning of 2016.

The list has not come into force yet and it is slightly different from the current rules which were brought into effect in 2005 by then SFDA.

Before the list is legally introduced, let’s look at first how the rules for vitamins and minerals differ between China and EU presently. It will help international food supplements manufacturers gain a clearer clue on Chinese regulation and avoid pitfalls when exporting vitamin and minerals supplements to China.

Vitamins and Minerals in General

Name CN EU
Minerals Ca Calcium
Mg Magnesium
K Potassium
Fe Iron
Zn Zinc
Se Selenium
Cr3+ Chromium
Cu Copper
Mn Mangnese
Mo Molybdenum
Lodine
Sodium
Fluoride
Chloride
Phosphorus
Vitamins Retinol Equivalent(Vitamin A or Vitamin A+b-Carotene) Vitamin A
Vitamin C Vitamin C
Vitamin D Vitamin D
Vitamin E Vitamin E
Vitamin k Vitamin k
Vitamin B1 Vitamin B1
Vitamin B2 Vitamin B2
Vitamin PP Niacin Niacin
Niacinamide
Vitamin B6 Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12
Folic acid Folic acid
Pantothenic acid Pantothenic acid
Biotin Biotin
b-Carotene
Choline

 

Mineral Substances

Name CN EU
Ca Calcium carbonate Calcium carbonate
Calcium chloride Calcium chloride
Calcium gluconate Calcium gluconate
Calcium lactate Calcium lactate
Calcium glycerol phosphate Calcium glycerophosphate
Calcium malata
Calcium monophosphate
(Calcium phosphate,Secondary)
Calcium phosphate,monobasic
(Calcium phosphate,Primary)
Calcium phosphates
Calcium sulfate
CalciumLascorbate
Calcium acetate
Calcium caseinate
Calcium citrate
Calcium citrate malate
Calcium salts of citric acid
Calcium salts of orthophosphoric acid
Calcium hydroxide
Calcium oxide

 

 

Name CN EU
Mg Magnesium carbonate Magnesium carbonate
Magnesium chloride Magnesium chloride
Magnesium gluconate Magnesium gluconate
Magnesium lactate Magnesium lactate
Magnesium glycerol phosphate Magnesium glycerophosphate
Magnesium citrate
Magnesium phosphate,dibasic
Magnesium phosphates
  Magnesium acetate
Magnesium salts of citric acid
Magnesium salts of orthophosphoric acid
Magnesium hydroxide
Magnesium oxide
Magnesium sulphate

 

 

Name CN EU
Fe Ferric carbonate Ferrous carbonate
Ferrous citrate Ferrous citrate
Ferrous fumarate Ferrous fumarate
Ferrous gluconate Ferrous gluconate
Ferrous sulfate Ferrous sulphate
Ferrous lactate Ferrous lactate
Ferric pyrophosphate Ferric diphosphate (ferric pyrophosphate)
Ferric ammonium citrate
Ferric chloride
Ferric citrate
Heme iron(Ferrous porphyrin)
Hemin (ferriheme)
Ferrous succinate
Ferric ammonium citrate
Ferric sodium diphosphate  
Ferric saccharate
Elemental iron (carbonyl+electrolytic+hydrogen reduced)

 

 

 

 

 

Name CN EU
Copper Copper carbonate Cupric carbonate
Copper citrate Cupric citrate
Copper gluconate Cupric gluconate
Copper sulfate Cupric sulphate
Copper lysine complex

 

 

Name CN EU
Potassium Potassium carbonate Potassium carbonate
Potassium chloride Potassium chloride
Potassium citrate Potassium citrate
Potassium gluconate Potassium gluconate
Potassium lactate Potassium lactate
Potassium glycerol phosphate Potassium glycerophosphate
Potassium phosphate dibasic  
Potassium Sulphate
Potassium iodide
Potassium iodate
Potassium bicarbonate
Potassium hydroxide
Potassium salts of orthophosphoric acid
Potassium fluoride

 

 

Name CN EU
Zinc Zinc acetate Zinc acetate
Zinc carbonate Zinc carbonate
Zinc chloride Zinc chloride
Zinc citrate Zinc citrate
Zinc gluconate Zinc gluconate
Zinc lactate Zinc lactate
Zinc sulfate Zinc sulphate
Zinc oxide Zinc oxide

 

 

 

Name CN EU
Manganese Manganese sulphate Manganese sulphate
Manganese gluconate Manganese gluconate
Manganese chloride Manganese chloride
Manganese citrate Manganese citrate
Manganese glycerol phosphate Manganese glycerophosphate
Manganese carbonate

 

 

Name CN EU
Chromium Chromium trichloride Chromium (III) chloride
Chromium nicotinate
Chromium picolinate
Chromium yeast
Chromium (III) sulphate

 

 

 

Name CN EU
Molybdenum Ammonium Molybdate Ammonium molybdate (molybdenum (VI))
Sodium Molybdate Dihydrate Sodium molybdate (molybdenum (VI))

 

 

 

Name CN EU
Selenium Sodium selenate Sodium selenate
Sodium selenite Sodium selenite
Selenium carrageenan  
Selenium cysteine
Seleniumrich yeast
Selenomethionine
Sodium hydrogen selenite

 

Vitamin Substances

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN A All trans Retinol Retinol
Vitamin A acetate Retinyl acetate
Retinyl palmitate Retinyl palmitate
All trans beta—Carotene Beta-carotene

 

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN D Vitamin D2 Ergocalciferol
Vitamin D3 Cholecalciferol

 

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN E D—alpha—tocopherol D-alpha-tocopherol
DL—alpha—tocopherol DL-alpha-tocopherol
DL—alpha tocopheryl acetate D-alpha-tocopheryl acetate
D—alpha—tocopheryl acid succinate D-alpha-tocopheryl acid succinate
Mixed tocopherols  
Dalphatocopheryl acetate
DL-alpha-tocopheryl acetate

 

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN K Vitamin K1(Phytonadione)  
Vitamin K2(Menaquinones)
  Phylloquinone (phytomenadione)

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN B1 Thiamin hydrochloride Thiamin hydrochloride
  Thiamin mononitrate Thiamin mononitrate

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN B2 Riboflavin Riboflavin
Riboflavin—5’—phosphate,sodium Riboflavin 5’-phosphate, sodium

 

 

 

Name CN EU
NIACIN Nicotinic acid Nicotinic acid
Nicotinamide Nicotinamide

 

 

Name CN EU
PANTOTHENIC ACID D—pantothenate,sodium D-pantothenate, sodium
D—pantothenate,calcium D-pantothenate, calcium
Pantothenic Acid
Calcium pantothenate
Dpanthenol
  Dexpanthenol

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN B6 Pyridoxine hydrochloride Pyridoxine hydrochloride
  Pyridoxine 5’—phosphate Pyridoxine 5’-phosphate

 

 

Name CN EU
FOLIC ACID Pteroylmonoglutamic acid (Folic Acid) Pteroylmonoglutamic acid

 

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN B12 Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12) Cyanocobalamin
  Hydroxocobalamin Hydroxocobalamin

 

Name CN EU
BIOTIN D—biotin D-biotin

 

Name CN EU
VITAMIN C L—ascorbic acid L-ascorbic acid
  Calcium—L—ascorbate Calcium-L-ascorbate
  Potassium—L—ascorbate Potassium-L-ascorbate
  Sodium—L—ascorbate Sodium-L-ascorbate
  Ascorbyl palmitate
  L-ascorbyl 6-palmitate