Chilean raspberry scam dodged food safety controls from China to Canada - Reuters
News agency Reuters says it has pieced together an alleged food trading racket spanning three countries under which raspberries were mislabeled and fraudulently sold in the Canadian market.
It reports that hundreds of tons of low-cost frozen berries grown in China were shipped to a packing plant in central Chile where they were then repackaged and rebranded by Frutti di Bosco - a fruit trading company - as premium Chilean-grown organics. The berries were then reportedly shipped to consumers in Canadian cities including Vancouver and Montreal.
Reuters says this is according to documents prepared by Chilean Customs as part of its investigation. The agency - whose inspectors had in January 2017 acted on a tip from a whistleblower, seizing files, company data and sales records from Frutti di Bosco - reportedly calculated that at least US$12m worth of mislabeled raspberries were sent to Canada between 2014 and 2016.
Much of that product, the documents showed, came from Harbin Gaotai Food Co Ltd, a Chinese supplier, Reuters reports.
Canadian health authorities later linked berries from Harbin Gaotai to a 2017 norovirus outbreak in Quebec that sickened hundreds of people. Canadian authorities issued a recall on Harbin Gaotai berries coming directly to Canada from China dating back to July 2016.
According to Reuters, what they didn’t realize is that Harbin Gaotai raspberries had also entered Canada through a backdoor during that period in the form of falsely labeled fruit shipped from Chile by Frutti di Bosco.
Reuters says the scheme lays bare the ease with which mislabeled, potentially risky products can be slipped past the world’s health and customs agencies, even as authorities across the globe scramble to ensure foods entering their countries are free of a new scourge - COVID-19.
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