An international investigation has begun following the discovery of quantities of fake saffron being sold in West Sussex.
Saffron – a spice derived from the crocus flower – usually retails for between £6 and £8 per gram. West Sussex Trading Standards officers conducted tests on 10 samples found for sale in outlets across the county and found that seven had been adulterated with cheaper plant fibres.
Almost 90kg of adulterated saffron worth between £600,000 and £750,000 was seized from a clandestine factory in Alicante, Spain. Two individuals were arrested.
The method of adulteration usually consists of mixing the pure saffron fibres with other cheaper fibres.
Peter Aston, Trading Standards Team Manager, said: “Genuine saffron is an expensive product so the potential to make money from adulteration is high.
“This is an excellent result for our Trading Standards service which has led to an international investigation and the discovery of thousands of pounds worth of adulterated saffron.”
Jacquie Russell, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, said: “Deceiving customers through the sale of adulterated saffron is a serious offence, hurting both innocent buyers and legitimate businesses.
“I would like to thank our Trading Standards team for their hard work which resulted in this international investigation.”