Discovery of saffron fraud in Spain

Spanish investigators uncovered a saffron adulteration operation that used Chinese ingredients.

The Guardia Civil found a group selling modified gardenia extract from China as saffron throughout Spain. The price of harvesting saffron is 10 times higher than gardenia extract. Operation Bagh saw the arrest of 11 people and the interrogation of three companies for crimes against public health and fraud. The exploration was carried out in Malaga, Barcelona, ​​Alicante, Granada and Almería. Band’s method included reducing the concentration of the molecule that differentiates saffron from gardenia. This means they can pass detection techniques used in previous years.



The difference between saffron and gardenia
The operation involved the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and Europol, plus the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (AESAN). The fraud resulted in an estimated profit of 3 million euros ($3.3 million) for the original company under investigation, authorities said. This is based on product marketing data from China from 2013. More than 2,000 kilograms of fake saffron worth 750,000 euros ($818,000) were seized and removed from the market.

Gardenia has a similar color to saffron, but it can be harvested intensively, while saffron must be handled by hand because it is delicate. This leads to a 10-fold increase in the price of saffron harvesting. Gardenia is not considered a food in the EU, so importers did not need to meet safety standards. Gardenia extract was imported from a Chinese factory that specialized in dye production. People who were investigated in Spain changed the labels and technical and customs documents to introduce it as saffron. When the product was in Spain, it was stored and preserved according to customer needs and introduced to the market through large distribution chains and consumed by people who bought it thinking it was saffron.

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