Criminals are learning they can make money selling people what they buy everyday: food.
That’s right, everything from chocolate to vodka is for sale. These foods are not made
by or stolen from the companies whose names are on the label. They are produced in hidden factories. They enter the market through the vast stream of foods that go to independent stores all over the world.
One expert said, “Around the world, food fraud is an epidemic. In every country where food is grown, food fraud is occurring.” Another expert said, about 10 percent of all food bought is adulterated.
Police have found thousands of frauds all over the world. Products include counterfeit chocolate, adulterated olive oil, Jacob’s Creek wine and even Bollinger champagne.
Apart from the criminal activity, the problem is what is in these foods? There is danger to the consumer in the ingredients. For example, foods containing sugar, vanilla, paprika, honey, olive oil or cocoa may be tainted with cheaper substitutes. There have been hundreds of cases of illness and death from tainted food products.
Often cheap food replaces more costly food. Catfish is sold as sea bream, farmed salmon is sold as wild salmon and hen-house eggs are sold as organic or free range. Experts say the weak global economy is the reason. Many consumers are looking for lower cost items.
Crooks are moving into other daily consumer products. Detergents, foodstuffs, cosmetic products and over-the-counter drugs are now flowing to consumers.
The problem seems to be greatest in Europe. It is spreading to the United States.