Spanish authorities have seized more than 120,000 kilos of potentially unsafe meat products.

La Guardia Civil in Spain detained 14 people and investigated another two for their part in labeling and distribution of meat products that had expired or were in poor condition.

Different meats including frozen chicken, beef, pork and rabbit were found at several sites in Madrid, Toledo and Malaga.

Operation Pitanza, which also involved public health authorities, uncovered the venture that involved buying meat that had expired or was near its expiry date cheaply and then selling it on as a good product at a higher price.

Spanish media reported no cases of illness have been linked to the criminal operation.

Ten companies have been inspected and a warehouse has been sealed from where the alleged practices were carried out and packaging and freezing dates were modified. Products were then sent to distribution centers to be passed on to customers.

Modified traceability information was used on batches that were expired and potentially unfit for consumption. The warehouse closure came after finding a batch of products with false labels from a company under investigation in Malaga.

Counterfeit rum operation
La Guardia Civil has also intercepted more than 225,000 bottles of counterfeit rum as part of Operation Hitsmo.

The inquiry involved Spain, Honduras, Dominican Republic and the Netherlands and led to 24 people either being arrested or investigated.

In total, 147,000 bottles were seized in a warehouse in the Netherlands with Spain as the destination with help from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The drink was produced in the Dominican Republic, bottled in Honduras, and counterfeit labels were put on from China.

The international organization introduced counterfeit spirits from three different brands of rum into Spain. Distribution included Córdoba, Badajoz, Valencia, Málaga, Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Navarra, Bilbao and Huelva. More than 225,000 rum bottles were seized with a value of €3.5 million euros. Honduran authorities also confiscated two containers of counterfeit rum destined for Europe with an estimated value in the European market of €500,000.

Investigations began in February 2019 when the Guardia Civil detected some rum bottles that appeared to be counterfeit in Cadiz. The operation has involved more than 50 Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch companies.

Action in Portugal
Meanwhile, a regional unit of the Economic and Food Safety Authority (ASAE) in Portugal has suspended a sausage manufacturing plant in the town of Almodôvar after an inspection.

Test results found Listeria monocytogenes in a sausage product and officials stopped operations at the site because of a lack of evidence of corrective action and potential contamination of work surfaces and equipment.

The agency found problems in implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Point Control (HACCP) system and non-compliance with hygiene rules. In total, 360 kilograms of sausages were seized, with a value of more than €6,000.

ASAE is also investigating three cases of illegal slaughter and has seized 160 kilograms of meat that potentially posted a risk to public health.

Action in the town of Pampilhosa da Serra resulted in 32 kilograms of goat, lamb and sausages being seized. A total of 31 kilograms of sheep meat was confiscated in the municipality of Viana do Castelo and in Évora piglets were being slaughtered at a site with no license for such work and without adequate hygienic conditions.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)