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Finnish Customs investigated international smuggling of meat to Finland – illicit activity caused risk to consumers

Publication date 29.6.2023 8.27
Press release

Customs has investigated a case of international smuggling, where large quantities of meat were brought to Finland unrefrigerated and without legal documents. Among other things, the operation involved evading taxes and the control of food safety. The case was uncovered during Customs’ control in the West Harbour of Helsinki in the spring of 2022.

The investigation showed that the suspect tried to bring in to Finland around 500 kg of fresh beef and sheep meat in a passenger car from Latvia via Estonia. The Finnish Food Authority found that the meat quantity in question was so large that it could not be considered imported for private use. Instead, it was a question of import for commercial purposes. The suspect’s operation was not registered, which is a requirement for the commercial import of foodstuffs according to the Food Act.

The meat was transported to Finland unrefrigerated and without a salmonella certificate, and the deficiencies found in the operation have put end-users at risk of illness and allowed salmonella to spread among consumers. The suspect said that they had brought fresh and frozen meat to Finland also on previous occasions.

– The case is serious in terms of consumer safety. The operation has cause harm, both to the health and safety of the citizens and to law-abiding operators in the food sector. The suspect has benefited financially by neglecting the cold transport approval required by the obligation to register for the food sector, says the investigator in charge Juha Havumäki.

Generally, products move freely between EU countries. Depending on the countries concerned, there may be different import requirements to ensure product safety and to prevent the spread of animal and plant diseases. The Finnish Food Authority supervises the import of foodstuffs of animal origin to Finland. Customs assists other authorities as agreed.

This case has been investigated as a smuggling offence and a health offence. The preliminary investigation is in its final stages and the case will be forwarded to theProsecution District of Southern Finlandfor consideration of charges.

Media release