In January 2017, Chilean customs inspectors acted on a tip from a whistleblower: The country’s prized crop of raspberries was under threat.
Inspectors raided the offices of Frutti di Bosco, a little-known fruit trading company on the second floor of a tower block in downtown Santiago.
The files, company data and sales records they seized revealed a food trading racket that spanned three continents.
At its heart was a fraud centered on raspberries. Low-cost frozen berries grown in China were shipped to a packing plant in central Chile. Hundreds of tons of fruit were repackaged and rebranded by Frutti di Bosco as premium Chilean-grown organics, then shipped to consumers in Canadian cities including Vancouver and Montreal, according to documents prepared by Chilean Customs as part of its investigation. The agency calculated that at least $12 million worth of mislabeled raspberries were sent to Canada between 2014 and 2016.
The scheme, pieced together for the first time by Reuters, 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.