A man has been arrested as part of an investigation into champagne contaminated with ecstasy that was linked to one death in 2022.
Eight people, aged 33 to 52, fell sick in mid-February 2022 in Weiden, Germany, and one died. There were also four illnesses in the Netherlands.
At the time, food agencies across Europe issued warnings about two lot codes of Moët and Chandon Ice Imperial that were potentially contaminated.
As part of investigations, the route of champagne served at the restaurant in February, as well as other bottles filled with drugs, was traced back to the Netherlands. Bottles were resold several times by a number of people who apparently did not know about their true contents.
Drugs in champagne bottles
With the help of Dutch and Polish authorities, a 35-year-old Polish national has been arrested. He is accused of narcotics trafficking plus negligent homicide and bodily harm.
The man is said to have been responsible for storing the drug in the Netherlands and shared responsibility for bottles reaching third parties. He was arrested in the Netherlands and is now in custody in Germany.
Laboratory analysis on a champagne bottle from the restaurant found it contained MDMA, also known as ecstasy.
Officials believe the bottles were emptied of champagne and then filled with pure liquid MDMA. Bottles were tampered with as corks did not match those used on the legitimate product. The problem did not occur at the site of the producer, Moët Hennessy.
Investigators, including German customs officers in Munich and the Weiden public prosecutor’s office, said enquiries were ongoing in relation to potential accomplices.
Sergio Fragoso Rodriguez, head of brand protection at Moët Hennessy, is one of the speakers at a symposium in December organized by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The event on illicit trade in food and food fraud on Dec. 11 and 12 will look at the incentives behind such practices, discussing how best to control them, and the role that WTO could play.
Other speakers include John Spink from Michigan State University, Michelle Catlin of the USDA, and Louise Manning from the University of Lincoln in England. Catlin heads a group working on food fraud prevention and control guidance at Codex.
Potential Dutch meat fraud
In another incident, the Intelligence and Investigation Service of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA-IOD) has revealed three people have been arrested because of suspected meat traceability fraud.
The accused are managers and employees of a slaughterhouse and a firm in the south of the Netherlands. They are suspected of falsifying documents relating to the destination of meat and providing incorrect information during a recall in 2022.
The National Office for Serious Fraud, Environmental Crime, and Asset Confiscation (Functioneel Parket) is leading the investigation.
In summer 2022, NVWA found a deworming agent at too high a level in the liver of a slaughtered pig. Further investigations showed that 390 pigs had been treated with this medicine before slaughter. Residues did not pose an acute risk to public health, but were above the legal limit. Meat from the pigs was judged unsuitable for consumption and had to be removed from the market.
Information about the destination of pigs treated with the deworming agent was incomplete, so a criminal investigation was opened. NVWA told involved companies to remove meat from all pigs that were slaughtered on one day – about 18,000 – from the market. NVWA-IOD suspects that incorrect information was provided to prevent the recall of the entire day’s production. The agency said a working traceability system is now in place.
One of the companies involved, Vion, said after the incident at the slaughterhouse in Boxtel, the firm took “appropriate measures” and the matter was settled.
Vion said it was “surprised” the subject was being raised again and that it was not contacted by the NVWA about further investigations into the handling of the incident.
“Nevertheless, Vion will fully cooperate with the investigation and looks forward to the outcome with confidence. As part of the investigation, some of our employees are also being interviewed by NVWA. We have complete confidence in our employees and offer them full support,” said a company statement.
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