A number of people have been arrested in the Netherlands as part of a fraud investigation involving meat.

The Intelligence and Investigation Service of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA-IOD) is investigating document fraud involving exported chicken.

Authorities visited two business premises and two homes in late January. Seven people have been arrested with one released after being questioned this past week.

Searches also took place in Belgium and Spain at three companies that may be working with the suspected Dutch firm.

Investigators believe a company based in the east of the Netherlands has been listing frozen chicken meat as other products, such as fish, in documents and then exporting it to countries mainly in Africa.

They are looking into official veterinary certificates and consignment information as well as other business records. Dutch media named the company that was searched as Wegdam Food Link in the town of Haaksbergen.

The purpose of the suspected fraud is thought to be to reduce import duties for the recipient by up to 70 percent.

NVWA-IOD officials said this type of fraud also poses a risk to food safety. When something is wrong with a food, it must be possible to find out where the product came from and to whom it was delivered. Such traceback is not possible if official documents are not accurate.

Spanish ham seizures
In a different incident, the Spanish Guardia Civil has seized nearly 2,000 pieces of meat in an operation against food fraud in the province of Cáceres.

Picture: Guardia Civil

The action led to four people being arrested and another five were investigated. Confiscated products include ham, sausages and frozen pig meat. As well as almost 2,000 pieces of meat, authorities blocked 760 kilograms of sausages and 4,500 kilograms of frozen meat.

Operation Sekai began in November 2020 after activity was detected at a closed meat factory on an industrial estate in the town of Malpartida de Plasencia.

Officials found operations including storage, distribution and marketing of food products of animal origin were being carried out without controls by local authorities as the site was not registered.

An inspection discovered meat products with the date of consumption modified or exceeded, non-existent numbers of producers or packers, and issues with records, labeling and traceability.

Products were sent to commercial establishments in the provinces of Caceres, Badajoz, Salamanca and Toledo. The company also had links with firms based in Salamanca, Toledo, Badajoz, Vizcaya and Madrid.

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