The passports, used to sell unregulated horse meat, were traced back to a criminal organisation in Barcelona that had been active since 2015. The authorities first began investigating when officers from the Spanish Environment Protection Service (SEPRONA) detected horse meat unfit for human consumption on the market. The meat in question had come from 300 horses slaughtered in the region, leading to authorities checking the documents of more than 10,000 horses, resulting in the seizure of 185 falsified horse passports and the detection of 100 other horses uncompliant with food market regulations.
The operation resulted in the arrests of 15 suspects and the investigation of 13 others. Law enforcement also carried out searches in various horse stables in Catalonia.
According to a Europol statement, the seized false documents confirmed that the organised crime group could have been responsible for introducing meat from hundreds of slaughtered animals onto the market, which failed to comply with national and European regulations. The slaughterhouse, several livestock farms, cattle dealers and veterinarians were all involved in the criminal activities.
Horse meat was at the centre of a food scandal that rocked the European meat industry seven years ago when undeclared horse meat was found in products labelled as other meats.
Global Meat News recently spoke to Eurofins Food Testing UK & Ireland Group chemistry technical manager Dionisis Theodosis about the importance of testing and coping with the media portrayal in the wake of the horse meat scandal of 2013.