The International Police Organisations (Interpol) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police have arrested 150 suspects during a joint annual operation, code-named “OPSON VIII” which targets fake and substandard food and beverages in the country and the region.
In an interview yesterday, Criminal Investigations Department (CID) spokesperson Detective Inspector Portia Chinho yesterday confirmed the arrests.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police, along with other Interpol member countries, carried out a simultaneous operation code-named Opson VIII.
“Operation Opson is an Interpol- coordinated exercise focussed on the elimination of counterfeit/substandard or falsified food and beverages. We only joined in on its eighth edition which is this year. The operation is done once per year by Interpol member countries,” she said.
She said the operation was conducted with other stakeholders such as Ministry of Health’s Environmental Health Services, Food Advisory Board, Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimra, Department of Veterinary Services, Plant Quarantine, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, Liquor Board, Government Analyst and City Health Department.
“During the operation, police arrested over 150 arrests for various offences but mostly inclined to Food and Food Standards Act.
“Major highlights of the arrests were the busting of a soya chunks production company in Chitungwiza where it was discovered that Ultra Soya chicken feed imported from Zambia was being used for production of soya chunks being sold for human consumption,” Detective Insp Chinho said.
In Victoria Falls, police arrested suspects for producing counterfeit freezits without licences.
Police said in Chivhu they intercepted buses transporting meat smuggled from South Africa, which is not certified for human consumption.
The buses had pork, chicken backs/heads and beef, among others.
They also intercepted buses that had smuggled tonnes of illicit drinks such as the Natural Power SX which have since been banned in other countries since it is harmful to health.
“The ZRP would like to warn individual and syndicated criminals who profiteer from substandard or falsified food and beverages that we will continue to disrupt, make seizures and arrest them.
“We call upon all individuals, groups and corporates that want to engage in food and drink production/distribution or sale to follow and comply with laid out procedures,” Detective Insp Chinho said.
She said anyone with information pertaining to the production, distribution and sale of suspicious beverages or food can contact their nearest police station or the Officer Commanding Drugs and Narcotics on (0242) 752125, (0242) 777590.
Between December 2017 and March 2018, over 3 600 tonnes of dangerous food were removed from the market during Operation OPSON VII.
Interpol then said trafficking in fake and substandard food was big business, and efforts to stop the global phenomenon were ongoing.