Lithuanian Gang Found Tampering With Expiration Dates On Millions Of Food Products

According to Food Safety News, a Lithuanian gang found to have tampered with the expiration dates of millions of food products has been brought down in a joint effort of various European law enforcement agencies. Agents from Eurojust and Europol, along with enforcement officers from Lithuania, Germany, France, and Estonia, arrested 24 members of the group said to have generated over €1 million in sales of the falsely labeled food.

Authorities conducted searches on over 70 warehouses, which were filled with foods lacking proper Lithuanian food safety registration and stored in unsanitary conditions. The specialty tools used to tamper with the dates were also discovered, and it was found that the 24 arrested individuals worked for both registered and unregistered food distribution companies. The products, purchased in France and Germany, had their dates altered and were then sold in bulk to various stores in the Lithuanian food market. The items included perishables such as frozen meat, fish, and poultry (via Securing Industry). 

A report from the Lithuanian Police Bureau stated that "low-quality and unsafe foods were offered to the domestic market, posing a possible risk to public health and deceiving customers." As of yet, no food related illnesses have been reported as a result of purchase on the falsified products.

Operation Opson and VAT fraud

The seizure of the falsified food products in Lithuania is part of a larger Europol campaign called Operation Opson. Now in its 11th cycle, Operation Opson's goal is to work with its 77 member countries, including Lithuania, to target the sale and production of dangerous or counterfeit foods. To date, some $40 million worth of potentially dangerous foods have been taken, 407 arrest warrants have been administered, and over 27,000 inspections have been performed.

Apart from deceiving consumers, the Lithuanian group is also under investigation for a litany of VAT tax fraud violations, per Securing Industry. Revenue notes that VAT (value added tax) is payable on the sale of goods and services within the European Union, which includes wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers. The group was found to be in possession of several hundred falsified accounting documents, in which the prices and purchase dates of the goods in question were falsified in order to avoid paying VAT. 

Additional searches have been conducted on warehouses in France and Germany, and a broadening of the investigation has been approved by several EU member countries. There is no word as of yet on arraignments and court dates for those arrested.