Investigators from Spanish law enforcement agency the Guardia Civil allege the unidentified Spanish meat company, based in Burgos, was selling beef burgers and meatballs that may have contained more pork, bread, fat or soy.
So far, 14 people have been charged with food fraud crimes, according to the Guardia Civil, which said the suspects had been “brought to justice”.
The country’s oldest enforcement agency described the Spanish meat swindle as a “major” example of food fraud on a national level.
Crime for economic gain
Beef costs more than pork, bread, fat or soy and the Guardia Civil said it believed the unnamed Burgos-based company’s use of cheaper ingredients provided an “important economic benefit” to the business.
A near one-and-a-half-year investigation began in December 2015 when the Guardia Civil said it became aware that the Burgos meat company might be committing possible food fraud. Officers believed the company was selling processed meat with a label that deliberately misled consumers on what was actually inside the food. It is unclear how the police agency reached this conclusion.
Undercover officers found evidence from at least 2002 that suggested the business was making quick-frozen meat products that sometimes contained less than a quarter beef.
Agents managed to covertly acquire meat samples from a number of facilities operated by the Burgos-based company. These were then tested in state-owned laboratories and the results were scathing: while labels stated beef was the main ingredient, a high percentage contained either pork, bread, fats or soy.
The Guardia Civil labelled the case of food fraud – which saw agents trawl through over 3,000 documents during the investigation – a “deception”.
The law enforcement agency could not be reached for further comment at the time of writing.
The story is ongoing. More developments to follow.