Authorities combating unauthorized and counterfeit goods during pandemic

THE Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Health Canada and the RCMP on Thursday announced the results of a Government of Canada initiative to combat unauthorized or counterfeit goods attempting to enter Canada through British Columbia.

Project Purify is a multi-departmental partnership between the CBSA, Health Canada and the RCMP, which was established to enhance the identification, interception and tracking of unauthorized or counterfeit COVID-19 health-related products in British Columbia between March 20 and June 30.

During this period, over 380 shipments of unauthorized content or counterfeit COVID-19-related goods were detained at the border (see photos), including:

* 48,000 COVID-19 test kits;

* 4.5 million units of personal protective equipment;

* 33,000 prescription tablets and pills; and

* over 1,500 other intercepts of fraudulent and potentially dangerous products.

Unauthorized COVID-19 test kits were seized at the Vancouver International Airport Air Cargo Operations.

The CBSA seized mislabelled or improperly declared goods, and referred others to Health Canada, who then seized or refused entry.

When the CBSA detects unauthorized or counterfeit goods, these goods are referred to the RCMP to address safety and security concerns or Health Canada to address potential health risks.

To protect the health and safety of Canadians, Health Canada takes immediate action against any companies found to be selling unauthorized health products either online or in stores in Canada. Enforcement actions can range from directing that importers take corrective actions to comply with regulatory requirements to removing non-compliant products from the market. Health Canada also works closely with law enforcement agencies and may refer suspected illegal activity to them for further action.

Unauthorized health products, some with false or misleading claims, were seized at multiple CBSA locations including the Tsawwassen Container Examination Facility, the Vancouver International Mail Centre and the Vancouver International Airport Air Cargo Operations.

Yvette-Monique Gray, Director, Enforcement and Intelligence Division, Pacific Region, CBSA, said: “While some importers genuinely did not recognize that certain health products require specific permits and licenses, others tried to take advantage of the circumstances during the height of the pandemic and attempted to import potentially dangerous products into Canada for financial gains. To prevent these goods from entering our communities, the CBSA partnered with Health Canada and the RCMP on Project Purify and this has proven to be extremely beneficial for British Columbians and all Canadians. The CBSA remains diligent and continues to screen all goods entering Canada.”

Alex Basiji, National Director, Clinical Compliance and Border Operations, Regulatory Operations and Enforcement Branch, Health Canada, added: “In collaboration with the CBSA and RCMP, Health Canada is working to meet the unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19, including the influx of unauthorized and counterfeit health products. Health Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians, and will continue to take compliance and enforcement actions as needed to remove these products from the market.”

Misleading products were seized at the Vancouver International Airport Air Cargo Operations.

Superintendent Brent Taylor, Officer in Charge, E Division Financial Integrity Program, RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime, said: “Products entering Canada that do not meet required standards can lead to serious injury or harm, mental and physical. Project Purify was an opportunity to work together to keep these potentially unsafe products out of our communities. By partnering with the CBSA and Health Canada, the RCMP continues to help keep British Columbians safe through this global pandemic.”

Quick Facts

* Border services officers are highly trained in examination and investigative techniques to intercept prohibited goods and illicit drugs entering Canada. Using intelligence, detection tools, and risk-based indicators, officers may decide to refer goods for further examination.

* The CBSA enforces over 90 Acts of Parliament and enforces rules and regulations on behalf of other Government departments, such as Health Canada and the RCMP, as they apply at the border.

* Unauthorized health products that have not been approved by Health Canada have not been assessed for safety, effectiveness and quality. Unauthorized health products can pose significant risks to health and safety.

* Buying health products online may pose serious health risks. Information regarding the potential risks of buying drugsnatural health products or medical devices over the internet is available on Health Canada’s website.

* Counterfeit health products are fraudulent versions of authentic products and may be potentially harmful if used or consumed.

* Authorized health products have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Drug Number (DIN-HM). Canadians can also verify that a product has been authorized for sale by searching Health Canada’s Drug Product Database or Licensed Natural Health Product Database. Class II-IV medical devices require a device license to be sold in Canada and can be verified by searching Health Canada’s Medical Devices Active Licence Listing (MDALL). 

* Canadians should report any health product adverse events or complaints to Health Canada.

* Anyone with information about suspicious cross-border activity is encouraged to call the CBSA Border Watch Toll-free Line at 1-888-502-9060.