Latvian authorities have discovered about 18 tons of food products in a warehouse with expired or changed shelf life dates.

The Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) said products were imported into Latvia from Lithuania, where they were withdrawn from the market earlier this year as part of an investigation by authorities into fake expiration dates.

The State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT) in Lithuania reported via EU communication channels that some of the goods withdrawn in the country may have ended up in Latvia.

The PVD launched an investigation, which led to the warehouse in the city of Daugavpils.

An inspection uncovered modified shelf life dates on products, some of which had been extended up to one year. Items included chocolate, candy, chips, oils, sauces, tea, soup mixes, and other foods.

The PVD said the goods were imported to Latvia by the Lithuanian company MB SYSTEMII, which purchased them from another firm in Lithuania.

The agency stopped items with altered expiry dates from being sold. MB SYSTEMII was fined €1,100 ($1,200) and ordered to destroy the confiscated goods.

Wider operation
As part of Operation Opson, at least 27 people have been arrested in Italy and Lithuania this year for allegedly reintroducing expired food into the supply chain. They are suspected of collecting expiring or expired food and beverages for little or no cost and replacing the shelf life dates with new ones to enable their resale.

The first phase of the operation in May involved Estonia, France, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Europol, and Eurojust.

About 70 searches of warehouses and other locations were carried out. Officers uncovered equipment for altering expiry dates, such as household solvents, printers, and labels. In some cases, the date printed on each item was erased, and a new one was reprinted. In others, a new label was forged and applied.

In July, the second part of the investigation included Europol, France, Germany, Spain, and Italian authorities.

Law enforcement officials conducted 14 searches at private homes and commercial sites in six regions and seized more than 500,000 food and drink items and equipment used by the suspected criminals.

Active since early 2021, the group is believed to have purchased large amounts of expired food items and other perishable goods from Germany and France. They altered the dates on products and supplied them to the Lithuanian market, where consumers bought them.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)