Police have seized 17,000 fake COVID-19 testing kits discovered in raids against illicit food and drink products across dozens of countries, Interpol said Wednesday.
Officials seized $40 million (34.5 million euros) worth of fake or substandard products in 77 countries, and arrested 407 people in the operation, carried out from December 2019 to June 2020.
The products included contaminated dairy products, meat from illegally slaughtered animals and food products falsely labelled as medicinal cures, said Interpol, based in the southeastern French city of Lyon.
But police also intercepted thousands of fake medical products as countries worldwide rushed to secure supplies while locking down to curtail the coronavirus pandemic.
“As countries around the world continue their efforts to contain COVID-19, the criminal networks distributing these potentially dangerous products show only their determination to make a profit,” the agency’s secretary general Jurgen Stock said in a statement.
Besides the fake COVID-19 tests, the raids uncovered disinfectants and even a shipment of seafood in South Africa, originating from Asia, that was falsely declared as personal protective equipment.
“Other illicit products recovered included cosmetics, footwear, clothing, handbags, car parts, electronics, tobacco and medicines, worth an estimated $3.1 million,” Interpol said.
It was the agency’s ninth year of coordinated Opson raids against counterfeit or substandard food and drink, which regularly seize thousands of tons of fake and potentially harmful products.