Customs officers in France say they confiscated millions of fake aspirin, erectile dysfunction and diarrhoea drugs from China in what they claim is the European Union's biggest-ever seizure of counterfeit medicines.

Some 2.4 million counterfeit drugs, hidden in two containers and declared as Chinese tea, were seized at the French port of Le Havre at the end of February. A statement was issued by customs noting that some contained no active ingredient, "which constitutes outright cheating of consumers," while others have different levels of the active ingredient compared to the authentic drug which means they could represent a serious health risk".

A customs official told Reuters that four brands, including Pfizer's Viagra (sildenafil) and Eli Lilly's Cialis (tadalafil) were among the products included in the haul.

The news comes a couple of days day after the European Union launched a project which will support the fight against the production and the trafficking in falsified medicines in Cameroon, Ghana, Jordan, Morocco and Senegal. European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, said counterfeit drugs have become "an important source of income for organised crime groups, with extremely high returns, hampering the peaceful development of these countries".

He added that the EU will provide training to help investigation and criminal justice services plus technical support "to detect and analyse suspicious medicines and raise awareness of the risks".