Notably, the safety of the food we eat and the protection of European’s personal data will be non-negotiable for me as Commission President. Jean-Claude Juncker in Political Guidelines, 15 July 2014.
Fake food represents a vast subject, affecting all world countries and in Europe means 235,681,849.87 EUR lost according to the OPSON VI Report (opson_vi_report) from Europol. The diversity and imagination of people who prefer to offer poison instead of healthy products are starting from copper in olives to keep green shine color to the food and fake drinks presented under a branded name, or counterfeited toys, clothes, shoes, cigarettes, perfumes, watches, leather products, electronics. The numbers are valid only for the food part because the rest of the smuggling have ramification in all life aspects. If you look at your possessions right now is possible that half of them to be counterfeit by the producer, distributor or seller.
Still, it is impossible to stop the phenomenon. European Commission is trying to fight against trade cartels to increase healthy competition, making unique market regulation, digitalizing the relations for secure records, but the real fight is with human desire. If you resist in front of detaining even one fake product from a brand name and understand the social level, Europe will become more vibrant together with Europeans.
One example can be all-inclusive hotels like Santa Marina Beach Hotel from Giannoulis Hotels&Resorts Group, which operate one place in Crete, Greece. At Santa Marina Beach Hotel they used all 2017 summer a beer branded Cretan but produced in Rhodos island by VAP company under Mino’s name. Even to say beer is too much because accordingly with VAP label from the barrel is only 3,5% alcohol concentration. More, a local brewery declared that name Cretan is too generic and not allowed to be used on products. Until now, VAP company refuse to comment on e-mail and phone call. At your home, do you drink this kind of product? Cheap can be wrong sometimes, and a vacation in Greece is not the ultimate in life.
The Giannoulis Hotels&Resorts is only one of “the investments” made by the President of the Chania Hotels Association, Mr. Manolis Giannoulis. One of his houses is inside the hotel area (probably assimilated like a room and avoiding propriety tax).
Leather products. Also here we have fake branded product or craft workers who are a promising product in the name of their experience and profession, but wrong delivering their measurements. “Leather House” from Chania town is an example. At the same time and place, I found a traditional tanner with a small workshop where is using the old method to prepare the leather. You can hear him here:
Mr. Filoitis place is full of different tools, water pumps, large wood boxes with liquid for different African cow skin attempting to be clean and transformed into sandals.
He is using natural substances for his work, but now the sellers and consumers are looking for other cheap replacement more than the original product made traditionally. Consumers have a big part of guilty of this phenomenon because the price is not a definitive criterion. Also, this is coming together with a lack of knowledge about quality means or negligence to study the ingredient label.
A good offer is one who can stand behind a producer or creator. Copywriting rights is about everything, not only for songs or movies. In the European Union, this becomes the biggest challenge in regulations terms for extensive and future protection against fakeness. Other examples can be with belts or animation character products easy to be found in touristic places like Agia Marina and Platanias (Crete) where the lack of authority and geographical position permit smuggler access.
In a Union of equals, there can be no second-class consumers. I will not accept that in some parts of Europe, people are sold food of lower quality than in other countries, despite the packaging and branding being identical. Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers. Hungarians less meat in their meals. Czechs less cacao in their chocolate. EU law outlaws such practices already. We must now equip national authorities with stronger powers to cut out any illegal practices wherever they exist. Third, in Europe, the strength of the law replaced the law of the strong.” by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, in State of the Union 2017.
We learn from Mr. President speech that fake food is not coming only from outside like China, but from inside where some companies or citizens consider this an easy way to become prosperous or healthy. This fact is not new. Along history, with a prominent peak during Napoleon empire when customs police appear like result of existing issues, greed push all kind of people to offer bad or fake food for selling in shops or restaurants. Because today the transport becomes cheap and fast is easy to make products anywhere including on international waters or hidden warehouses in Asia and India then send them through AirCargo.
Let see how some statistics come from OPSON VI report:
Sixty-five countries and 20 private partners, from 22 EU Member States (MS) and 43 non-EU countries, participated in Operation OPSON VI. This represents the largest number of participating countries, especially for non-EU countries, since the beginning of OPSON in 2011. Fifty-seven countries took part in OPSON V.
- In total, 13,407.60 tonnes, 26,336,305.3 liters and 11,118,832 units of either counterfeit or substandard food and beverages have been seized during the four-month operational phase of OPSON VI. The total value of these illicit goods amounts to 235,681,849.87 EUR.
- Participating countries reported more than 50,128 inspections and checks, and 13,711 persons arrested or investigated. They opened 6,282 administrative and criminal cases. Investigations started in the framework of OPSON VI led to the dismantling of seven organized crime groups, reported as such by the countries and involved in the production of illegal food, other goods smuggling and other criminal activities.
- In terms of product range, the levels of seizure within OPSON VI differ significantly compared with OPSON V. The highest quantity of seized products is alcohol whereas the first category of seized products in OPSON V was condiments (e.g., vegetable oil, spices, and sauces). Enforcement actions during OPSON VI led to the closure of at least 183 illegal alcohol factories and the seizures of production materials, ranging from special bottling machines to counterfeit excise stamps, caps, labels or bottle security rings. The second category of seized goods is meat with almost 5,146 tonnes removed from the markets.
- The reported infringements are, in most cases, related to deceiving consumers (27%, of which 1% are IPR violations), food safety (22%) and fiscal infringements (19%).
Besides the seizures of food and beverages, the participating countries reported important seizures of tobacco, coca leaves (in Peru), pharmaceuticals and cannabis (in Djibouti) which were discovered in the course of OPSON VI.
From the Greek Police, I have this information:
The Greek Police participated in a joint operation against the illegal trafficking of counterfeid and degraded foods and beverages.
This is a joint operational action of Interpol and Europol, with the code name OPSON VI.
It took place from December 2016 to March 2017, with the participation of 61 countries.
In total 9,800 tonnes, over 24,6 million liters and 13 million pieces of counterfeit and degraded products were seized, valued at 230 million euros.
With the initiative of the Financial Police Department, at the operation contributed also the co-responsible authorities of our country.
The Greek Police handled 71 cases for which 82 persons were arrested and large quantities of food and beverages were seized.
The Greek Police actively participated in the joint operation, while with the initiative of the Financial Police Department others co-competent authorities of our country also contributed (Department of Financial Crime Investigation (ΣΔΟΕ), Uniform Department of Food Control (ΕΦΕT), Department of Customs Control and Customs Violations).
During the operation, Financial Police Department and the police of the country handled 71 cases for which 82 persons were arrested and seized:
· About 47,439 liters and 7,570 bottles of various alcoholic beverages and olive oil;
· 900,000 fresh eggs;
· 1,391 pounds of fresh meat;
· 750 pounds of clams (some sources declare that the fake fish in Greece is a large fact in many restaurants, my note);
· 160 pounds of eel, of the protected species Anguilla Anguilla and
· 1,794 beverage pieces.
Seized goods were sent to the appropriate services for further laboratory testing.
Greek Police refuse to communicate in English, so the translation is volunteer made by Ms. Athanasia Skreka. (Thank you!)
With a particular view from Border Police of Romania, we have these numbers after a 2017 year of activity (information from Yearly Activity Evaluation Report):
- 53 economic crime;
- 1211 smuggling and custom fraud cases values at approx. 23 million euro;
- 253 individuals with fake or smuggling goods;
- 4,9 million cigarettes pack, 500 kilos of tobacco for confiscation from 38 traffic groups, and 163 persons;
- 7920 kilos of tobacco from a single Polish drive truck who presented transport documents for washing powder from Greece to Nederland, hidden in a specific method;
- 28.663 liters of alcohol;
- 8,8 kg of gold and silver jewelry;
- 914.000 euro and US dollar (182.000 US dollar only from a single Bulgarian citizen);
- 88.5 kilos of amber;
- 71.400 pieces of clothes article, 18.360 cosmetics, and perfumes, 6990 footwear, 1.224.070 other goods (like electronics, toys, electrics, phone accessories) all fake under a brand name.
Romania is an EU border country, but in the most relative situations are involved people inside the EU not from outside. This network can be so extended like in some countries everybody now a friend who can obtain a reasonable price for a counterfeit product. Let see now some numbers from a Romanian county (Brasov area in the middle of the country; thank you for information received from County Police – Economic Crime Investigation Service) also in the year 2017 :
- 300 fake articles under a brand name;
- 950 counterfeit car pieces;
- 38 food controls with no result to find something (so the national 28.663 liters of alcohol and 13,407.60 tonnes, 26,336,305.3 liters and 11,118,832 units from Europe did not affect this region).
Fake food, counterfeit products, smuggling phenomenon, is everywhere. Only you can stop this and keep that resources.
For the end I offer you a fragment from Ms. Vestager Margrethe, Competition Commissioner, at WebSummit in Lisbon, Portugal on 7 November 2017:
But we all deal with the market every single day. And the way companies treat us affects our whole view of the world around us. So it matters when people see that businesses treat them fairly.