Operations Opson V, that is, the police operations of Interpol and Europol in 57 countries around the world which are aimed at identifying and seizing counterfeit or fake foods, have identified over 10 000 tonnes of such foods.

In Italy, the police recovered 85 tonnes of olives, which contained a copper sulphate solution. In Greece, three illicit factories were discovered producing counterfeit alcohol. In the United Kingdom, the authorities seized some 10 000 litres of adulterated alcohol, while from Hungary and Lithuania to Togo and Zambia large quantities of counterfeit chocolates and sweets were found and seized, as well as quantities of alcoholic beverages which carried counterfeit labels and were aimed at children. Lastly, many kilos of monkey meat were found at Zaventem airport in Belgium, and large amounts of crickets and caterpillars were seized in France.

Interpol also reported that 70 kilos of chicken intestines preserved in formalin were seized in Indonesia. Formalin is prohibited as a food additive.

1. What measures does the Commission propose to take to prevent trafficking in illicit goods and protect public health?

2. What steps must be taken to intensify checks at European borders, airports and customs houses aimed at preventing trafficking in illicit goods?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission

1. The main seizures following ‘Opson V’ occurred in third countries, although illegal products were also detected in Member States. Information on relevant cases was exchanged among Member States through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. Trafficking in illicit goods, including food, is addressed within the framework of the EU Policy Cycle on serious organised crime(1), and facilitated by Europol.

2. Regulations (EC) No 178/2002(2) and (EC) No 882/2004(3) are the two main tools within a comprehensive legislation ensuring that food imported in the EU complies with EU safety standards. Responsibility for enforcing food safety rules lies with the Member States, which are required to establish a comprehensive system of official controls to verify compliance with EU food law requirements or with equivalent standards in accordance with Article 11 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002. Products of animal origin imported in the EU are subject to compulsory veterinary checks at border inspection posts to ensure compliance with the relevant import conditions. For food and feed of non-animal origin, the Commission has established a list of products which, based on known or emerging risk, require an increased level of controls prior to their entry in the EU. The list appears in Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 669/2009(4) and is regularly reviewed.

The Commission is confident that the existing tools allow for a rapid reaction should the need arise to step up vigilance and introduce specific measures for imported food. Moreover, it constantly monitors delivery by the Member States of their control duties. It has not however become engaged in enforcement of legislation in individual cases.

(1) http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/jha/137401.pdf
(2) Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28.1.2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1.
(3) Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29.4.2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules, OJ L 165, 30.4.2004, p. 1.
(4) Commission Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 of 24.7.2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the increased level of official controls on imports of certain feed and food of non-animal origin and amending Decision 2006/504/EC, OJ L 194, 25.7.2009, p. 11-21.