More than 1,200 tonnes of fake or sub-standard food and nearly 430,000 litres of counterfeit drinks were seized, and 96 people were arrested, in an operation across 33 countries in the Americas, Asia and Europe, including the UK earlier this year.
One example of a UK success took place in Scotland, where a 40ft lorry load of fake vodka was seized. The load totalled 17,156 litres of counterfeit Glen’s vodka, involving duty and VAT of £269,300.
Operation Opson, jointly run by Interpol and Europol, began in 2011 to tackle the criminal production and sale of counterfeit ‘protected food name’ products, such as Gorgonzola or Champagne.
The Government said the success of Operation Opson III, which ran between December 2013 and January 2014, was due to “unprecedented cooperation” between national and international law enforcement agencies and the food industry.
It specifically targeted the organised crime networks behind the illicit trade in counterfeit and unregulated food and drink and involved police, customs, national food agencies, regulatory bodies and partners from the private sector, with checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and private homes.
A number of seizures across the UK were undertaken by trading standards enforcing consumer protection legislation.
Speaking at the International IP Enforcement Summit London today, Intellectual Property Minister Lord Younger said: “Fake and sub-standard food poses a serious health risk to consumers and takes money away from legitimate producers and retailers.
“The UK will continue to share its expertise in the international fight against fake food and work with our partners to bring these unscrupulous criminal gangs to justice."