The European Union blocked a shipment of squid from Uruguay’s main fishing processing group Fripur S.A. and sent Uruguayan authorities what is known as “rapid sanitary alert” explaining the motive for such a decision.
According to the EU office sources in Montevideo the decision to retain the shipment and further unloading was taken once controls detected that the cephalopods contained a high percentage of cadmium, a heavy toxic metal that can cause cancer.
However since the episode is limited to an only shipment (to Italy) and of squid this does not necessarily mean that precautionary measures will be taken regarding all Uruguayan fish or sea food shipment to the European Union.
Daniel Gilardoni head of Uruguay’s Aquatic Resource Office, DINARA, from the Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries ministry admitted to the Montevideo press that in effect the EU notification had been received last week.
“It’s not a contamination incident but rather that the produce, when samples were taken before landing, showed levels above those specified as acceptable”, said Gilardoni.
Squid is a species with a low presence of cadmium, therefore the episode “will have no consequences” for Uruguay before the EU.
This is not the first time the Fripur complex (Uruguay’s main fish exporter) has been involved in “export irregularities” besides the fact that in 2007, following an EU sanitary inspection to Fripur, exports to Europe were blocked for several months.
According to Montevideo’s financial press the several months ban on Uruguayan fish produce to the EU caused an 80 million US dollars loss of fisheries exports. In March 2010 Dinara imposed the corporation a fine equivalent to 46.000 US dollars.
Apparently the EU inspectors discovered while a random visit to Fripur’s processing plant that the building was undergoing construction maintenance and repairs while fish for the EU was being processed.
Following on a complaint filed by a Non government organization, claiming there was no relation between the losses caused to Uruguay’s exports and the DINARA fine, an organized crime magistrate opened an inquiry into the incident.
This has been further ignited by the fact that Fripur’s owner Alberto Fernández is a close friend of Uruguay’s president Jose Mujica, having contributed to his presidential campaign, having paid for the presidential sash and having offered to finance the popular festivities following the official inauguration last March first when Mujica took office.
The previous head of DINARA, currently Senator and belonging to the same political group as President Mujica, Daniel Montiel was accused of a “close” relation with Mr. Fernandez and of allegedly having his wife employed in one of the several companies belonging to the FRIPUR group.