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Food by VICE

Monkey Meat, Caterpillars, and Tons of Fake Booze Found in Interpol's Biggest Food Bust

More than 10,000 tonnes and one million litres of “hazardous fake food and drink” in what Interpol is calling the biggest seizure of contraband food in their history.

by Nick Rose
Mar 31 2016, 3:00pm

Fancy some Italian olives "painted" with copper sulphate? How about some Sudanese sugar tainted with fertilizer, or Belgian monkey meat, and washing it all down with one million liters of fake alcohol?

If you answered in the affirmative, or are familiar with any of these items, Interpol might be looking for you.

The European police organization recently seized more than 10,000 tonnes and one million litres of "hazardous fake food and drink" in what they are calling the biggest seizure of contraband food in their history. The investigation, dubbed Operation Opson V, spanned 57 different countries and uncovered a shockingly long list of illicit foods being traded globally.

opson-dried

"Checks at airports during Operation Opson V identified international travellers importing illicit products and customs officers at Zaventem airport in Belgium confiscated several kilos of monkey meat." All photos via Interpol.

Among the illicit, fake, and dangerous products were "several kilogrammes of monkey meat" in Belgium, 30 tonnes of illegal beef and buffalo meat that was "unfit for human consumption" and destined for supermarkets in Thailand, as well as 11 kilos of locusts and 20 kilos of caterpillars, which were "seized and destroyed" in France.

"Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially dangerous goods," Michael Ellis, head of Interpol's Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit, said in a press release.

opson-truck

Ellis also added that the main force underlying this trend appeared to be economic. "Today's rising food prices and the global nature of the food chain offer the opportunity for criminals to sell counterfeit and substandard food in a multi-billion criminal industry which can pose serious potential health risks to unsuspecting customers."

opson-champagne

Naturally, there was plenty of fake booze being peddled around the world as well. The Opson V loot included 7,400 bottles of fake alcohol and counterfeit labels were impounded in Greece and nearly 10,000 litres of "fake or adulterated alcohol" including wine, whisky and vodka in the UK. But the operation's tentacles reached way outside of Europe and found more than 36,000 litres of illicit booze that were confiscated alongside nine Kalashnikov rifles, ammunition, and three grenades in Burundi.

As far as we know, the guns and grenades were not meant for human consumption, but the seriousness of this arsenal gave Interpol, and us, a rare glimpse into the high stakes surrounding contraband food.

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