A series of operations in recent months in Portugal have revealed olive oil fraud, illegal slaughter activities, and water added to seafood.

In May, the Food and Economic Safety Authority’s (ASAE) southern regional unit inspected the olive oil sector in Lisbon.

The action targeted two entities with commercial links between them, who operated through social networks, in which the sale of cooking oil as extra virgin olive oil with Protected Designation of Origin claims was detected.

Two criminal proceedings were opened for fraud on goods, falsification of documents, and illegal use of geographical origin claims. Officers seized 450 liters of cooking oil, hundreds of fake labels, various papers, and other items worth €40,000 ($43,300) overall.

Seafood and meat on the radar
In April, ASAE was part of an operation directed at an establishment in Coimbra to verify compliance with the storage and handling conditions of fish and seafood products.

As a result of the action, more than 17,800 kilograms of fishery products were seized. Products worth an estimated €115,000 ($124,700) were destined for the national and European markets.

Officials verified the practice of immersing products in water, intending to increase their weight, and adding salt and additives.

Inspectors found an octopus with no identification mark from the establishment that handled it and with a date that had been exceeded for more than a year. Other issues included no mention of the date of first freezing, information about adding water, or the percentage of additives on the label. The product repacking facility was suspended as the site was not approved for this activity, and one administrative offense case was filed.

In the same month, ASAE’s southern unit executed four search warrants on combating clandestine slaughter and commercialization of abnormal foods in Batalha and Caldas da Rainha.

Officials seized 4,260 kilograms of meat products, such as sheep carcasses, frozen sheep meat, and frozen chicken, with a value of more than €21,000 ($22,800). Meat products were destroyed or used as animal feed.

Oil authenticity and Easter checks
In other work, ASAE’s southern regional unit helped to check the authenticity and quality of olive oil sold in Portalegre, Beja, and Silves.

Inspections were focused on firms with links between them, in which the sale of cooking oil as olive oil was detected. Investigators also found the warehouse where the logistics of falsifying labeling and organizing distribution were carried out.

Two criminal cases were opened for committing fraud on goods, and 2,510 liters of cooking oil, hundreds of counterfeit labels, and various documents were retrieved. The total value of items seized was almost €29,000 ($31,400).

Another ASAE operation across the country targeted Easter seasonal products and illegal slaughter operations.

In Operation Páscoa, 12 search warrants were executed, and about 2.5 tons of meat products were seized. Weighing instruments, various meat-cutting tools, labeling accessories, and some hunting equipment, such as weapons and ammunition, were also found. Four people were arrested.

A total of 189 operators were inspected, and 11 criminal proceedings were opened. Another 46 administrative offense cases were filed for non-compliance with hygiene requirements, a lack of HACCP implementation, and non-conformities in food labeling. The activities of nine sites were suspended due to hygiene concerns.

In March, a series of checks were undertaken at wholesale establishments handling and storing foodstuffs in the districts of Aveiro and Viseu.

More than 7,300 kilograms of food, such as yogurts, cheeses, cold cuts, and frozen fish products, were seized. The total value of these items was more than €60,000 ($65,000).

Violations included the lack of a Veterinary Control Number (NCV) issued by the authorities and missing or incomplete labeling. Two administrative offense proceedings were initiated, and the establishment in the district of Aveiro was suspended.

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