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Portuguese crackdowns target meat, supplements, and olive oil

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Authorities in Portugal have seized a number of food products in recent months including meat, fish, food supplements, and olive oil.

Earlier this month, the Food and Economic Safety Authority (ASAE), with help from the National Republican Guard (GNR), seized 8.5 tons of fresh and frozen octopus from Spain in the city of Olhão.

Officials found the operator was not correctly registered with the Directorate General of Food and Veterinary Affairs (DGAV) and it didn’t have the documents needed to ensure the traceability of products.

Also in March, a regional unit of ASAE confiscated 4,200 packs of food supplements worth an estimated €16,800 ($17,800) from an importer in the municipality of Sintra.

The action was taken because of the addition of an unauthorized substance to a food supplement. Iron oxide is not listed as an authorized source of iron in supplements in EU regulation.

Portugal became aware of the issue after a Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notification was issued by Estonian authorities in December 2022. The implicated product was also distributed to Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Latvia.

Busy February

In February, a regional unit of ASAE inspected a catering establishment and food storage warehouse in Barreiro. They discovered foodstuff unfit for human consumption, which was destroyed.

A total of 900 kilograms (1,980 pounds) of animal-origin food products such as meat and fish were found with an estimated value of €10,000 ($10,600). Operations were suspended until violations were corrected.

Earlier in the month, ASAE dismantled illegal jams and sauces manufacturing unit in Águeda. Officers found that in a garage in a house, fruit jams, and sauces were being made, but the operator didn’t have a license, and hygiene conditions were poor.

Some products made at the site had already been detained by authorities in a supermarket in Mealhada because they were being sold to the public with irregularities in the labeling.

Another operation in Mealhada, with the National Republican Guard, led to the seizure of 2.3 tons of meat products.

Officers intercepted a vehicle that was transporting pork from a slaughterhouse in Santarém to a cutting room in Macedo de Cavaleiros. After finding meat on the floor, it was diverted for cleaning at an approved site. They also uncovered issues with the temperature recorder installed in the vehicle, which meant the temperature of the meat was not accurately controlled.

Meat and olive oil operations

In late January, ASAE blocked more than 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of meat products at a cold store in Beja. The agency found pork, sheep, and beef meat that was unfit for human consumption so stopped it from being put on the market and sent products to be destroyed.

In the same month, ASAE revealed the results of Operation Talhos, which was aimed at verifying compliance with butchers. 

A total of 232 operators were inspected, with 43 administrative proceedings being opened. Some of the problems included poor hygiene and not following technical standards during distribution, preparation, and sale of meat and meat products; a lack of, inaccurate or deficient records, and non-compliance with shelf lives. Overall, 525 kilograms (1,160 pounds) of meat products were seized and three establishments were suspended.

In December, a local unit of ASAE discovered 73,000 liters of counterfeit olive oil in Portalegre.

The operator was suspected of putting a substance, thought to be olive pomace oil, in thousands of containers labeled as extra virgin olive oil, which were then packed and sent to the national and international markets.

Criminal proceedings were initiated for fraud. As well as the counterfeit oil, 116,000 labels, and various documents were seized. The value of confiscated items was almost €800,000 ($850,000).

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