Liam Aylward MEP, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development has this week challenged the European Commission to clarify what action it will take to combat food fraud.

Speaking in Brussels, the Ireland East MEP has urged the Commission to take action on this underreported problem.

“Food fraud is defined as the production, processing, distribution or marketing of any counterfeit or sub-standard foodstuff, contrary to food legislation and is a very lucrative and profitable criminal activity as food prices continue to rise.”

“The World Customs Institute has recently dubbed food fraud the crime of the century, earning perpetrators $49 billion annually and as the demand for inexpensive food grows over the coming years this problem seems certain to rise.”

“Operation Opson” a Europol investigation seized thousands of fraudulent food stuffs last year, including 13000 bottles of substandard olive oil, 77,000kg of counterfeit cheese and 30 tonnes of fake tomato sauce.

An Irish study carried out by University College Dublin, found that 82% of fish such as pollock and whiting sold on the Dublin Market was fraudulently mislabelled as other more valuable species such as cod.

The Irish MEP stressed that this is a problem which has the potential to affect the reputation of the agri-food industry.

“Given that agri-food industry is worth €24 billion to the national economy, food fraud represents a significant threat to the name and credibility of the sector.”

“The Commission’s actions on this issue are vital to maintaining the high reputation which European and Irish produced food enjoys.   In this regard, I have asked the Commission to make clear, without delay, what measures are in place to tackle food fraud on a Union-wide basis and to clarify how it ensures that food imports from outside the Union comply with consumer legislation such as labelling, traceability and nutritional information?

Consumers buying counterfeit goods are either knowingly or unknowingly putting their health at risk because fraudulent foods and beverages are not subject to any manufacturing quality controls and are often transported or stored without regard to safe food-handling standards.