Million-euro scam involving Spanish pata negra ham uncovered in Seville

by Lorraine Williamson
jamon scam

Agents of the Guardia Civil, together with employees of the Seville Territorial Delegation of Health and Consumption, have seized over 50,000 kilos of hams and pork shoulders as part of a multi-million euro scam. 

The meat products were found in two clandestine warehouses in Alcalá de Guadaíra and Dos Hermanas. The police discovered freezer rooms there that were in such poor condition that columns of ice connected the ceiling of the rooms to the floor. They also found hams completely covered in mould or worms. 

The operation began at the beginning of this year, when agents of the Guardia Civil in Seville carried out an inspection at a meat plant in the city of Alcalá de Guadaíra.  

There, the agents found shortcomings in the labelling of products. Further investigation -with the cooperation of technicians from Public Health- led to the two clandestine warehouses, which have since been closed down. 

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Washing of the hams 

At the warehouses, the hams were first pressure washed with water or burnt to remove the fat. Then a mixture of seed oil and charcoal was applied to the hams to improve their ‘pata negra’ appearance. Barrels of acaricide were also found, applied to prevent insects. Pieces of meat that did not meet the minimum requirements were used for selling sliced or diced. 

Labels falsified 

Besides the deplorable hygiene-sanitary conditions, the labelling of these products was also falsified, with expiry dates and batches being manipulated, according to the Guardia Civil. Sometimes the health registration number used did not exist and the quality certificate of Iberian products had been copied from another trader. Moreover, these products were supplied to end users as well as large retail chains 

Misleading 

One trick to mislead consumers was to substitute pieces of ‘standard Iberian pork’ with lower-quality pieces or other types of pork that had nothing to do with Iberian pork. According to the markings on the hams, some pieces had ended up in the salt in 2017, but the seals indicated that the pigs had been slaughtered in 2020, showing that the Iberian hams and shoulders had been tampered with. 

Cooperation pays off 

The cooperation of both the Interprofessional Association of the Iberian Pig (ASICI) and the certification bodies was fundamental in achieving a full clarification of the facts. Furthermore, the investigative work led agents to companies in Seville, Cáceres, Valencia, Salamanca and Madrid. Consequently, some of these companies are being investigated for complicity in the scam. A number of companies that are victims of this huge scam are also being investigated. 

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