Campaigners seeking to raise awareness of the social and economic harm of fake luxury goods sought European Union support Monday for their fight against the booming trade in counterfeit products.
The Authentics Foundation aims to combat the appeal of cheap knockoffs by showing the dark side of these goods, saying they are often made with child labor, used to finance crime and because their lower quality can be a health hazard.
"I think this all maybe started with the DVDs and music being pirated, and it is has just exploded basically into something quite different," said Yasmin Le Bon, an anti-counterfeit campaigner and model.
European Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso gave his backing by opening a "summit" on the problem attended by industry and government figures.
"It is indeed not only an economic problem, but a public health and a consumer problem," he said.
An exhibition organized by the group in a Brussels hotel showed goods ranging from a fake Ferrari sports car made in Thailand, to imitation Tabasco sauce. Medicines are a particular problem. The group said 80 percent of pharmaceuticals sold in Nigeria were fake.
Timothy P. Trainer, president of the Authentics Foundation, said his organization faced an uphill challenge.
"It has gotten more complicated because now counterfeiters are into everything," he said. "Twenty years ago they were more into luxury brands and so on. Today, they are into electronics, they are into medicine, they are into food."
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