UNICRI illicit pesticides, organized crime and supply chain integrity report

A new Report on “Illicit pesticides, organized crime and supply chain integrity” has been published by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).

The report, prepared by UNICRI and discussed by experts and practitioners during an Expert Workshop, aims at deepening the general knowledge on current trends related to illicit pesticides, identifying the actors and organized crime groups (OCGs) and networks involvement and their modus operandi, and understanding the supply chain vulnerabilities. Participants included high level representatives from Brazil, Ghana, Finland, Italy, Moldova, Vietnam, Basel Convention Regional Center in China, Uk Intellitech Security Group, EUROPOL, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, CropLife, Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Pesticides Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), World Customs Organisation, INTERPOL and Reconnaissance International.

I was honored to be invited to the workshop and to have the opportunity to contribute: a special thanks to entire UNICRI team, especially Vittoria Luda di Cortemilia, Programme Coordinator of UNICRI Environmental Crimes Programme – Emerging Crimes Unit – Elise Vermeersch, Project Associate, and Francesca Bosco, Senior Fellow. The report was drafetd by the UNICRI and Robyn Mace.

Illicit pesticides pose potentially serious threats to human safety and health, economies, businesses and farmers, the environment, and national security. For more than a decade, regulators, industry and farmers in numerous countries have been struggling with the growing market in illicit agro-chemicals and illicit plant protection products (PPPs). Worldwide estimates of trade in illegal and counterfeit markets range from 5-15% for most types of products and commodities. The European Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG-SANTE) indicates that about 10% of the European Union (EU) pesticides market is comprised of illegal pesticides, noting significant variation between Member States. Other sources have indicated that more than 25% of pesticide products in some EU Member States are counterfeit.

This policy paper is divided into four sections. The first presents an overview of the risks and impacts of illicit pesticide use on human health, livestock and food supplies, the environment, and the international agricultural trade.

The second section presents data and information on actors and agents, modus operandi, observed trends, product flows and regional profiles of the pesticides market. This section also considers trade, agricultural and food supply chain characteristics, security vulnerabilities, and protection and defense measures against organized crime groups and networks that have infiltrated international agrochemicals and pesticide markets.

The third section summarizes key regulatory issues, identifies obstacles and indicates concrete actions to prevent and combat the importation, sale and use of illicit pesticides, as well as the role of the actors involved in the control and securitization of the market.

The final section concludes with the role of UNICRI in addressing the issues of illicit pesticides, in particular in facilitating research, raising stakeholders’ awareness, delivering training and technical assistance programmes, supporting in capacity building activities and reinforcing national and international cooperation.

The report contains also an amazing list of cases happened in the last decade, divided by country.

FDA Investigates Listeria Outbreak Linked to Frozen Vegetables

The FDA, CDC and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis identified in March 2016.

The CDC reports that eight people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes have been reported from three states (California, Maryland and Washington) from September 2013 – March 2016. Ill people ranged in age from 56 to 86, with a median age of 76. Epidemiology and laboratory evidence available at this time indicates that frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington, and sold under various brand names are one likely source of illnesses in this outbreak. As discussed further below, CRF Frozen Foods has initiated a recall of certain products.

As part of a routine product sampling program the Ohio Department of Agriculture collected packages of frozen vegetable products from a retail location and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from True Goodness by Meijer brand frozen organic white sweet cut corn and frozen organic petite green peas. Both products were produced by CRF Frozen Foods.

Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to seven bacterial isolates from ill people, and the Listeria monocytogenes isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from an ill person. This close genetic relationship provides additional evidence that the people in this outbreak became ill from eating frozen vegetables produced by CRF Frozen Foods.

Based on the positive findings by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, on April 22, 2016, CRF recalled 11 frozen vegetable products because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. On May 2, 2016, following a conversation between FDA, CDC and the firm, CRF Frozen Foods expanded its recall to include all of its frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014. Approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands were recalled.

Additionally, March 2016 environmental samples collected by FDA from Oregon Potato Company, located in Pasco, WA, were found to be closely related genetically to seven of the isolates of ill people associated with this outbreak. Based on this information, Oregon Potato Company voluntarily recalled wholesale onion products, which led to subsequent downstream customer recalls, one disclaimer icon of which publicly disclosed Oregon Potato Company as its product source. FDA is working to identify other parts of the relevant supply chain that may have product relating to this outbreak.

(Source: FDA website)