Brazil meat scandal deepens as China, EU, Chile bar imports

Cornelia Mascio
Marzo 21, 2017

The two-year probe, known as Operation Weak Flesh, found evidence that meatpackers paid off inspectors and politicians to overlook practices including processing rotten meat and shipping exports with traces of salmonella, police said.

"The Brazilian government reiterates its confidence in the quality of a national product that has won over consumers and obtained the approval of the most rigorous markets", said Mr Temer.

While the media reports referenced a number of second and third-tier meat processing and value-adding companies, some of the largest processors in Brazil, included BRF and JBS, have also been accused by media of wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Brazil's President, Michel Temer, met foreign diplomats from the EU, China, the United States and elsewhere yesterday [Sunday 19 March] to allay concerns over exports following police raids on meatpackers in Brazil on Friday.

On Saturday, JBS and BRF launched a public relations offensive to deflect a crisis that threatens an industry with $12 billion in annual exports.

Among those companies under investigations are meat giants JBS and BRF.

Police detained an executive of BRF SA on Saturday, as the meat company and rival JBS SA took out full-page advertisements to burnish their image after raids to investigate alleged bribes paid to hide unsanitary conditions in Brazil's meatpacking facilities.

However, European farmers fear they will be unable to compete with cheaper beef imports from South America, where the cost of production is significantly lower than in Europe.

"The agro business for us in Brazil is very important and it should not be marred by a small nucleus (of bad actors), a small thing", he said, speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce in Sao Paulo. "What we have are containers there that can't leave the port to local markets".

Brazil's success as a meat producer in part stems from what has been an efficient and highly-regarded system of sanitary controls, the government said.

Singapore's biggest supermarket chain NTUC FairPrice confirmed on Monday (March 20) that it carries poultry products from two Brazilian suppliers caught in a rotten meat scandal, and is seeking clarification from them.

"You can not play around with food", said André Regli, Switzerland's ambassador to Brazil, adding the problems were "worrying".

China's government asked for similar information.

Alongside Ministers of Agriculture and Commerce Blairo Maggi and Marco Pereira, Temer emphasized that "among over 11,000 employees in the meat sector only 33 are under invetigation, and of 4,837 freezer warehouses, only 21 have presumably violated regulations".

The meat companies have denied the allegations, taking out full page ads in Brazil's newspapers and purchasing spots on TV to do so.

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