Massive Food Fraud Uncovered In La Rioja

120,000 Cans Of Canned Tuna And 45,000 Litres Of Oil Seized.

120,000 cans of canned tuna and 45,000 litres of oil seized. Credit:

In a recent crackdown by the Guardia Civil, a major food fraud operation was exposed in La Rioja, Spain.

The events began late in August 2023, when authorities investigated four individuals, linked to a La Rioja-based company. This firm was involved in illegal activities surrounding the production and distribution of canned tuna and oil.

Arrests And Seizures

The Guardia Civil’s investigation, aided by Europol and the Italian Carabinieri, led to the seizure of 120,000 cans of tuna and 45,000 litres of oil. Intended for markets in Spain and Italy, these products were especially aimed at the Christmas holiday rush.

A search at the company’s premises revealed a hidden area lacking basic hygiene standards. Here, returned tuna jars were found in hot water containers, being prepped for re-labelling and re-entry into the market.

This process involved altering expiry dates and health registration details, posing significant risks to public health and consumers.

Violation Of Regulations And Quality Control

Another discovery at a different site also contravened Spanish food laws. A direct sales store sold canned tuna labelled solely in Italian, defying Spanish regulations which require bilingual labelling.

Ongoing investigations suggest that this criminal network has been active for years. They allegedly used low-quality, inexpensive raw materials while falsely labelling them as higher quality, thereby inflating their profits at the expense of consumers and law-abiding competitors.

Operation Matsu

Dubbed ‘Operation Matsu’, the investigation began following an initial complaint about the company’s dubious practices.

Of the 40 tuna samples tested, 33 were falsely labelled as containing olive oil, when in reality, they contained cheaper sunflower or pomace oil. In one case, the tuna was of a lower quality than claimed.

As part of the operation, the Guardia Civil confiscated various items for analysis, including canned goods, tuna, oils, and water. Electronic devices and significant documentation were also seized for further investigation.

The suspects, aged between 28 and 64, face charges for their roles in a criminal organisation, public health violations, and fraud. All actions are under the direction of the Court No. 2 of Calahorra in La Rioja.

This operation highlights the Guardia Civil’s commitment to safeguarding food integrity and public health, both in Spain and across Europe.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.