Police in Finland investigate fake food worker documents

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Police in Finland are investigating the sale of alleged fake hygiene passports to people recently arriving in the country.

Helsinki police have referred the case for prosecution. Operations were run by a fictitious and unregistered company called Marbon Oy.

The Finnish Hygiene Passport was developed to promote food safety. It includes a paper certificate and a card. Those who work in the food industry must know how to handle foodstuffs safely and hygienically. Employees must have a hygiene passport if they work on food premises and handle unpackaged perishable foods, such as milk, meat, and vegetables.

Police received information about suspected counterfeit activity from the Finnish Food Authority (Ruokavirasto) in 2019.

Implicated products were sold to people who had recently arrived in Finland, such as asylum seekers. These workers may have food sector experience but are unlikely to be familiar with Finnish regulations. Police believe the suspect had hundreds of clients.

Investigation findings
In early 2019, the suspect requested tenders to produce the hygiene passports to a printing company in China. This company forwarded the request to a Finnish printing company, which the Finnish Food Authority uses as a supplier of hygiene passports. The Finnish firm suspected the inquiry was not legitimate and informed the food agency.

After police arrested the sender of the tender and searched their phone and computer, they found hygiene passports and other documents had already been ordered in 2018 from printing companies in Poland and Hungary.

Counterfeit hygiene passports are marked as “valid until further notice,” police believe they are still in use. Officials have not yet been able to identify all buyers of the documents and don’t know how many are in circulation.

The suspect had worked in several roles, including teaching positions at a school and a college for people with an immigrant background. Buyers were convinced that the documents were genuine and training sessions were organized. Cards were sold even though people had not attended the necessary training or passed the related exams.

Official hygiene passports are obtained by passing a test. Exams are organized, and passports are issued by firms approved by the Finnish Food Authority.

As police have not seized fake cards, officials asked food industry operators and supervisors to pay attention to the authenticity of hygiene passports and contact the Finnish Food Authority if they come across any they suspect are not authentic. Serial numbers used on hygiene passports and other documents suspected to be fake can be found here.

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