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Rise in fake organic goods

Europol has warned of a rising number of counterfeit foods, particularly those certified as organic or protected designation of origin (PDO) labels.

Of the products detained at external borders in 2015, 7% were foodstuffs, the agency noted in its “2017 situation report on counterfeiting and piracy in the European Union”.

“In 2015, the food industry saw a growth in the abuse of ‘organic’ labels attached to products that did not comply with the organic certification but had higher retail prices, and a growth in the misuse of such labels in the future was anticipated,” the report reads.

The number of goods seized with false geographical indication labels, such as PDO, has fallen from 16,618 seizures in 2014 to “very few” in 2015. However, the value of the counterfeit items “remains high” and the risks remain “substantial”, with wine, spirits, cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals the most commonly affected products.

Europol urged national enforcement agencies to remain on guard. Focus on terrorism and other criminal activity has seen intellectual property rights crime drop down the priority list, but it “continues to be one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises … frequently closely linked to other serious crimes”.

With retailers and manufacturers having shored up their supply chains following the horsemeat scandal, experts believe foodservice could be left exposed to fraudsters.

Concerns are mounting that Brexit could also result in a spike in food fraud as the pound plummets and prices rise.

Andy Morling, head of the Food Crime Unit at the Food Standards Agency, told those attending December’s Footprint Forum not to pay too much attention to the scare stories.

However, Chris Elliott, professor of food safety and founder of the Institute for Global Food security at Queen’s University Belfast, said recently that Brexit could trigger “a very new can of worms” in terms of food fraud.