Science

Twitch: the darkest part of food fraud

DIRECT. Ingrid Kragl is the chief information officer for Foodwatch France, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that campaigns for greater transparency in the food sector and for the right to healthy and environmentally friendly food. She is the guest of the new broadcast on the Sciences et Avenir Twitch channel (twitch.tv/sciencesetavenir) that you can follow on Thursday, November 25, 2021 starting at 5 pm Ingrid Kragl is the author of “Real Fake Eating , the food fraud scandals “(Robert Laffont, 400 p., € 21), a book in which Carole Chatelain, editorial director of Sciences et Avenir – La Recherche, had dedicated the article to reread below, an extract from our number 892 , dated June 2021.

“I have been monitoring the issue of food fraud for about six years, in particular as part of Operation Opson, which is organized for a short period each year by Interpol and Europol, two international anti-crime organizations, in order to stand out. on these fraudulent topics. I was able to observe that seizures were becoming more important with practices increasingly concerning for the health of consumers. Scammers, in fact, are driven by profits and do not bother to harm health. For example, Operation Opson in 2020 led to the seizure of some 12,000 tons of counterfeit food and 2,000 tons of counterfeit alcoholic beverages. 406 people were arrested and 19 organized crime groups dismantled. Not all European countries are doing what it takes to stop this tidal wave, especially in France, where omerta reigns.

“Listeria-contaminated meat eaten in 34 countries”

Therefore, it is extremely difficult for Foodwatch, and fortiori for ordinary citizens, to have access to the information. One example among many: that of the German wholesaler Wilke, which was discovered in 2019 to market Listeria-contaminated meat in 34 countries. Three people died in Germany. When the Foodwatch office in Berlin informed us, the French authorities had not yet officially communicated anything, unlike other countries. Under pressure from the media, the Ministry of Agriculture finally recognized that this meat had been consumed in 11 departments, in restaurants, caterers, delicatessens and even … nursing homes. But we never had access to the details. Even a deputy from Bas-Rhin, one of the departments involved, did not win his case before the authorities! The excuse sometimes used to protect jobs in the food industry was irrelevant, as the company in question was German.

“Parmesan, olive oil, honey, tomatoes, fish, meat, champagne, nothing escapes …”

There are many examples where fraudulent practices are concealed. This massive fraud ranges from the small merchant who mixes, for example, non-compliant or contaminated meat with healthy meat, to large-scale distribution that, through the pressure of low prices, creates an environment conducive to fraud, to organized criminal networks. and the agromafias that invest in this traffic and control the markets alongside the drug market: the profits are colossal and the risks almost nil. Everyone remembers the so-called horse meat in lasagna scandal in 2013. But the fraud affects all products of daily consumption, including raw foods such as fruits and vegetables or trust-inspiring products such as protected geographical indications (9% counterfeit in Europe) or organic (one in 12 products do not comply with regulations in France). Parmesan, mozzarella, olive oil, honey, tomatoes, rice, fish, seafood, meats, champagne, wines … nothing escapes him, not even non-alcoholic sparkling wine for children. Because the system allows these scams to continue. Consumers have no way to protect themselves, even when they think they are buying “made in France” or local.

This book aims to inform but also to provoke a political clash: we must provide ourselves with means of control and repression until the phenomenon, or the fraud DGCCRF (General Directorate of Competition, Consumption and Repression), for example, lost 90 agents in the period 2018-2019 . And the number of health inspections decreased by 33% between 2012 and 2019, which will affect “the ability to react to emergency situations”, as the European Commission alarmed in a report (2018). Solutions exist, starting with transparency: citizens have the right to access information. We have launched a request to this effect on foodwatch.fr. This lack fuels a climate of impunity and fuels mistrust. We must also force manufacturers to report these scams and strengthen whistleblower protection. “

Fake Eating For Real, The Food Fraud Scandals, Robert Laffont, 400 p., € 21

EXTRACT

The Oceana organization conducted a test in Brussels, including in the neighborhood frequented by European officials. With a verification of the authenticity of 280 products served in 150 restaurants, sushi bars, as in the dining rooms of the European Parliament Commission and the European Parliament, with the help of MEPs. The results of DNA analysis carried out at the University of Leuven are astonishing: 1 in 3 products is fraudulent! In sushi shops, fraud was even more significant, reaching 54.5% […]. Bluefin tuna was almost always replaced (95%) by other tropical tuna species, obviously of lower value. “

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