Mon, Jul 01, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Food fraud being fed by EU’s financial crisis

From counterfeit cod to sham champagne, food fraud is far more widespread than authorities previously suspected, with imposter ingredients such as engine grease in olive oil or high levels of methanol in vodka posing a danger to consumers

By Stephen Castel and Doreen Carvajal  /  NY Times News Service, GREAT DALBY, England

Another fraud is to fake the packaging of well-known brands with writing in a foreign language so consumers believe they have a genuine product that was diverted abroad at a bargain price.

Even religious communities are not immune. In Britain, the British Food Standards Agency has warned against drinking Zam Zam water, which is sacred to Muslims and comes from Saudi Arabia. Bottles sold in Britain “may contain high levels of arsenic or nitrates,” the agency said.

In a depot in south London, trading standards officers display fake foods including about 300 bottles of counterfeit red and white wine, labeled Jacob’s Creek. One small detail gives away these otherwise convincing forgeries: the counterfeiters misspelled the name of the country where the real wine is produced, Australia, leaving out the middle “a.”

Wandsworth Council trading standards officer Russell Bignell said bottles normally contained cheaper wine, but added: “The fact is we don’t know what’s in it.”

Other items include two convincingly packaged boxes of fake Durex condoms and a bottle of counterfeit Bollinger Champagne.

Christopher Roe, the council’s chief trading standards officer, said the problem affects sales of goods online, but that much conventionally sold counterfeit produce turns up in markets or small independent corner stores.

“Whether or not they know it’s counterfeit is a moot point,” Roe said, adding that there are just not enough resources to combat the problem.

With counterfeit products, “the more you look, the more you know you will find,” he added.

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