Gangs of International Garlic Smugglers Make a Stink in Sweden
Swedish officials have uncovered a massive garlic smuggling racket. The official consensus is that "something stinks" in Sweden. The powerful white stuff that is being shipped in on the sly isn't cocaine or heroin. It is garlic.
Due to a 9.6% duty tax on imported garlic, dishonest exporters sneak tons of cheap Chinese garlic into the European Union (EU). The garlic is smuggled in by ship through Norway, a non-EU country, where it is transported to the EU.
This is a seriously pungent problem. In 2012, British, Irish, Austrian and Polish police arrested smugglers who illegally imported at least 4.1 million dollars worth of garlic into the EU. In 2013, Swedish officials uncovered an allium smuggling ring worth over 13.7 million dollars. In this case the Garlic Desperados moved over 11,000 tons of Chinese garlic into Europe. Swedish officers were tipped off to the extent of the problem in 2010 when they captured a truck carrying a large amount of illegal Chinese garlic (reportedly 30,800 tons) across the Norwegian-Swedish border.
Dodgy exporters try to sneak around the garlic import tax by claiming their warehouses house only fresh ginger. However smart inspectors are wise to that ploy. In one case, they noted that the warehouse temperature was too cold for ginger but just perfect for garlic. I suspect that the lingering odor of thousands of pounds of garlic also gave the game away. Are trained garlic sniffing dogs far behind? The grocer accused went on the run after learning he owed the British government $3.3 million in taxes. In his absence he has been featured in Britain's Top 32 Tax Offenders Rogues gallery 2012 and sentenced to a 6 year jail term.
In 2012, five Romanians were arrested when they attempted to smuggle 9.5 tons of garlic into Hungary. One mistake they made was that they stuffed over nine tons of garlic into only three vans. The vans, riding low to the ground and emitting a smell reminiscent of garlic bread, were identified as 'suspicious' and 'strangely mouth watering' by local police and searched.
In Ireland, a top food importer was recently sentenced to 6 years (although that sentence has been recently set aside by the Ireland Court of Criminal Appeals) for importing over 1,000 tons of Chinese garlic disguised as apples! Since apples have a lower import duty than garlic, he avoided $1.8 million in tax by defrauding customs officials. Still no word on how he managed to make garlic smell like Red Delicious.
Food Fraud: Are Your Eggs "Made in China"
According to the European Anti-Fraud Office, fraud and irregularities have been present in Chinese garlic for the last 20 years. China currently produces about 80% of the world's garlic. The EU officials might be right to be concerned. There are some unreliable food items from China including fake eggs (check out this interesting Japanese video on fake Chinese eggs) and fake rice. Both eggs and rice are made from plastic and industrial waste! Here's a great article on China's Top 8 Fake Foods.
China also succeeds in sneaking quite a bit of illegal adulterated honey into this country. By adulterated I mean cut with corn syrup, molasses, sugar and other substances. This is done to make more money and to cut the awful sauerkraut smell that results from improperly cured honey. In China honey is removed from the hive before it has time to dehydrate and 'cured' in vats. This results in an off fermented smell and taste.
Please make sure you are buying real honey by purchasing unfiltered honey which has pollen in it. Filtered honey has the pollen removed; the problem with this is that without pollen it is hard to tell if honey is real or fake.
by Susan Fluegel, PHD