Europol: False organic certification continues to be major problem for food industry

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Food industry European union

Counterfeit certification labels, such as fake organic or protected designation of origin (PDO) labels, continues to be a major problem for the European food industry, according to a report by Europol.

The report, entitled 2017 Situation Report on Counterfeiting and Piracy in the European Union​, looks at the problem across sectors including everyday products, such as cosmetics, toys, medicines, food and beverages and technical products. 

“It is evident therefore that the misuse and counterfeiting of certification labels continues to be a major issue for rights holders in a series of diverse industries, especially as such marks purport to testify to the quality and safety of a product that, if counterfeit, is likely to be substandard and potentially highly dangerous," ​says the report, published jointly by Europol and the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

“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 value of falsely labelled geographical indication products, such as protected designation of origin (PDO), also remains high in the EU, the report says, with the producer countries of the original products –  Spain, France, Italy and Greece – being the most affected.

Most commonly affected products include wine, spirits, cheese, meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals, although the report notes that, compared  to the 16,618 goods seized at EU external borders in 2014, there were “very few​” in 2015

This is probably due to the high costs engendered by those who file a complaint. "Although [...] there is no fee for submitting an Application for Action (AFA), the obligation for rights holders to bear the storage and destruction costs, along with the lack of control over the costs, may deter some of them from submitting the AFA.

"The danger of this is that counterfeit goods may enter the EU undetected as the authorities have not been alerted to the potential existence of illicit consignments.

According to Europol, the increasing focus on other criminal activities and terrorism has also resulted in a fall in intellectual property crime as being earmarked as a priority for enforcement, "despite the fact that it continues to be one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises, and is frequently linked to other serious crimes"​.

“Any efficient response to IP crime requires total cooperation between all stakeholders,” ​it says.

China is the biggest offender for producing counterfeit goods, with Hong Kong’s shipping ports and airport acting as major transit hubs for fake goods, while Turkey is another supplier with large consignments entering the EU by truck.

Last year enforcement officers in Italy found more than 9,000 bottles of fake Moët & Chandon champagne with a potential market value of €350,000, describing it as “one of the most significant seizures of counterfeit bubbly in Europe”.

The report can be downloaded here.

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