ILLEGAL TRADE IN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS AND HEALTH RISKS

OLAF /06/06 Brussels, the 30 March 2006

Adulterated butter, buffalo meat declared as beef, tigernuts imported as flower bulbs: Illegal trade in agricultural products that negatively affects the financial interests of the EU also raises concerns for public and animal health. At a joint seminar organised by the Slovenian Customs and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) today in Bled, Slovenia, fraud investigators, veterinarians and public health specialists from all over the EU discussed risks and countermeasures.

“In the context of fraud in trade with agricultural products, there is a potential risk for public and animal health. We think it is necessary to draw greater attention of national and international control services to this problem”, OLAF Director Franz-Hermann Brüner said during the one-day conference hosted by the Slovenian Customs Administration in Bled. “Only close international co-operation can ensure the best possible protection of the consumer and of the financial interests of the European Union”, he added.

Participants studied the legal and scientific aspects of this kind of illegal trade as well as the utility of risk analyses in the field. Several operational cases were discussed which show the necessity of co-operation between national customs and veterinary services and EU authorities such as OLAF; for example:

• Trade in adulterated butter containing non-milk animal and vegetable fats and chemicals: The fraud had been organised in order to illegally manufacture a cheap product which maximises profit and then to obtain EU payments. Even though no health hazards have yet been detected in the concrete case, fraud schemes like this may pose a risk to public health. (See also OLAF Press Release Nr 10/2000All available translations., Nr 7/2000All available translations.)

• Import of buffalo meat from India falsely declared as beef from Australia and New Zealand: Import of this kind of meat to the EU is forbidden because the food-and-mouth disease virus is endemic in Indian buffalos. An outbreak in EU cattle could cause serious economic damage to European farmers and, subsequently, have a major negative impact on the Community budget and international trade.

• False declaration of tigernuts as flower bulbs when being imported to the EU: These nuts may contain a toxine. Because of this risk, tigernuts have to undergo thorough phyto-sanitary inspections which are different for flower bulbs.

Alessandro Butticé
Head of Spokesman, Communication and PRUnit
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