The Guardian reports:
The horsemeat scandal of 2013 proved how vulnerable our food chains are to blatant fraud perpetrated on an industrial scale. Sixteen months later, the fact that no one died or was taken seriously ill as a result of the contamination of processed beef products has seen the issue demoted as a cause for concern. But, as in China in 2008, when an industrial chemical, melamine, was added to increase the protein content of baby milk, and in the Czech Republic in 2012, when vodka was laced with methanol, it is tragically evident that food fraud can be fatal.
It is to be hoped that it will not take something catastrophic to make us pay attention to the findings of the forthcoming Elliott report (the independent inquiry set up by the government in response to the horsemeat scandal) into the integrity of our food chains. But we note that, since the scandal broke, only a couple of individuals have been charged, despite manifold evidence of fraud perpetrated by organised criminal gangs. This, it can be suggested, reflects the limited importance that law enforcement, both in the UK and further afield, attaches to food crime. Indeed, it is noticeable that there is no unit within the major police organisations, such as Acpo or the Metropolitan police, that speaks out on the issue. The National Crime Agency’s national strategic assessment of serious and organised crime threats 2014, published last Thursday, made no mention at all of food crime.
And yet the evidence of its ubiquity is there for all to see. In February, Interpol’s annual blitz against criminal networks engaged in food crime, Operation Opson III, recovered 1,200 tons of fake or substandard food and nearly 400,000 litres of counterfeit drink seized in 33 countries across Europe, the US and Asia. Reports of food crime to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are rising sharply year on year. In April, it emerged that roughly a third of lamb takeaways sampled by local authorities’ trading standards teams contained meat other than lamb.
(via Justin Pickard)
Meanwhile, according to The Economist, organized crime gangs are diversifying out of drugs and into new markets:
The buyers may be besotted ornithophiles, air-brained fashionistas or greedy gourmets. But the sellers are crooks, supplying a market which, according to America’s Congressional Research Service, is worth as much as $133 billion annually. Commodities such as rhino horn and caviar offer criminals two benefits rarely found together: high prices and low risk. Rhino horn can fetch up to $50,000 per kilogram, more than gold or the American street value of cocaine. Get caught bringing a kilogram of cocaine into America and you could face 40 years in prison and a $5m fine. On January 10th, by contrast, a New York court sentenced a rhino-horn trafficker to just 14 months.