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PUBLIC HEALTH

14 people held for using illegal substances to fatten cattle

The criminal ring sold over 1.3 million kilograms of suspect meat, investigators say

Civil Guard officers inspecting a farm.
Civil Guard officers inspecting a farm.

The Spanish Civil Guard has arrested 14 people for selling over 1.3 million kilograms of meat from animals that were allegedly fattened using illegal products considered harmful to human health in high doses.

The raid has taken place simultaneously in the provinces of Huesca and Zaragoza (in the Aragón region) and in Lleida (Catalonia).

Investigators took over 150 samples from cattle at 30 ranches and slaughterhouses, analyzing the animals’ feed, meat and urine, and found levels of residual corticosteroids that were significantly above the upper accepted threshhold.

In 1981, the European Union prohibited the use of substances having a hormonal action for growth promotion in farm animals

The operation began in 2015 in parts of Aragón, where authorities detected the first cases of illegal cattle fattening. The investigation later extended to Catalonia.

“There was an organized criminal group in charge of distributing the banned substances and later selling the meat,” said the Civil Guard in a statement, adding that slaughterhouses, cattle breeders, entrepreneurs and veterinarians took part in the scheme.

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Cattle breeders were found to be administering beta blockers and dexamethasone, a type of steroid, to the animals in their care. The substances were mixed in with the feed in such a way that they were difficult to detect.

The ring had contacts in other European Union member states and in non-EU countries, and managed to add an extra 40 to 60 kilograms of weight to each animal through the use of these illegal substances.

The suspects have been charged with crimes against public health, document forgery and criminal association.

In 1981, the European Union prohibited the use of substances having a hormonal action for growth promotion in farm animals. In 2010, it banned imports of steroid-treated meat.

English version by Susana Urra.

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