Burger meat fraud leads to 14 arrests in Spain

Spanish police have arrested and charged 14 people with fraud, and breaching consumer rights, following accusations that a Spanish meat company has been selling low-quality beef burgers with incorrect labeling. Some burgers were found with under 25% beef content according to the authorities.

The meat processing plant, based in Burgos, Spain, labelled the products as containing a certain percentage of beef. In reality, the products had less beef content than was claimed, with pork, bread, fats or soy substituted instead, according to the Guardia Civil.

Evidence going back at least to 2002 was acquired by authorities that suggests quick-frozen beef products were being made by the company that sometimes contained under 25% actual beef.

The Guardia Civil, one of Spain’s police forces, described the case as a major example of food fraud on a national level.

The police investigation into the fraud began in December 2015, when the Guardia Civil “became aware” of potentially fraudulent activity on the part of the company, whose name has not been disclosed.

As part of the investigation, 3,000 documents were examined by authorities, and meat samples from multiple facilities of the company in question were analysed in laboratories. 

The results of these tests showed that, contrary to labels showing beef as the main ingredient, a high percentage of burgers contained substitute ingredients.

The firm at the centre of the matter reportedly produces ‘white-label‘ goods for other firms – for example, supermarkets, to distribute under their own branding. The police stated: “The scope of marketing appears to be very high as the company manufactured white-label products that were distributed in the domestic market”.

The nature of the processed products (hamburgers, meatballs and so on) prevented the discovery of the deception prior to the operation, as analysis in a specialized laboratory would be needed to identify the fraud, the Guardia Civil said in a statement.

Considerable differences in price for beef and prices for the substituted materials purportedly gave an “important economic benefit” to the company in question.

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