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Spanish officials seize tons of food meant for vulnerable people

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Spanish authorities have seized more than 170 tons of food at a non-profit organization for violations of quality and food safety rules.

The Guardia Civil confiscated 176 tons of product including canned vegetables, fruit and fish from the group Amigos de Galicia with a base in the Spanish city of A Coruña. The value of the confiscated food has been put at more than €285,000 ($342,000) although some of it was later allowed to be distributed.

Operation Phyllos began in December 2019 after an inspection by authorities in Galicia at the organization belonging to a network responsible for delivering support as part of the EU’s Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).

The visit found the group, which had been temporarily expelled from the program in the past, was distributing food with modified and manipulated labeling and issues with the numbers of disadvantaged people it said it helped.

Further inspections covered the logistics center and four provincial headquarters of the organization. Officials found 176 tons of food from the program that should have been distributed to people who needed it in previous years.

This had not been seen during previous inspections as part of the program and had different types of irregularities with regulations on quality and food safety as well as management of aid programs, according to the Guardia Civil.

Checks determined 70 percent of it was damaged, which equates to about 122 tons of food with a value of more than €132,000 ($158,500). However, 30 percent was judged to be fit for human consumption. This 54 tons has been distributed through other groups that are part of the program.

Non-profit’s response
Two people have been investigated for a crime against public health and the organization has been stopped from being part of the FEAD program.

In response, the Fundación Amigos de Galicia said the food involved was part of the 2015 to 2016 program when it was suspended from distributing products in the province of A Coruña and there was no expired food pending distribution.

Work as part of the FEAD network continued from the provinces of Ourense, Pontevedra and Lugo without incident and related audits were passed.

The Guardia Civil sealed a facility in February 2020 following an inspection as part of the Spanish Agrarian Guarantee Fund (FEGA). Merchandise with a suitable consumption date for distribution, mainly tuna, was delivered in February 2021 to other organizations.

Fundación Amigos de Galicia has been helping people in need since 1996 and the group said it had never had any reports of people treated for food poisoning from food it delivered.

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