Export Bans Hit Brazil's Meat Industry after Scandal

Brazil's Federal Police had reported that the meatpacking firms under investigation had been selling expired meats, disguising the at times rancid odor of the product with ascorbic acid and then bribing inspectors at the Agriculture Ministry to authorize the product for sale locally or overseas.

Enrico Brivio told reporters Monday that companies involved in the scandal would be temporarily barred.

In a statement, BRF said the company has not received any formal notice from Brazilian or foreign authorities related to the suspension of its plants.

The developments are a major blow to Brazil, one of the world's largest exporters of meat, which is struggling to emerge from its worst recession in decades.

His comments to diplomats from Europe, the United States, China and elsewhere followed police raids on Friday investigating whether meat companies bribed inspectors and politicians to overlook unsanitary practices. The authorities say there's no sanitary risk, despite allegations by police that some producers had sold rotten and tampered meat products.

President Michel Temer appeared in front of cameras on Sunday, tucking enthusiastically into a steak at a churrascaria - a BBQ restaurant - where he held a dinner to reassure ambassadors from countries that buy Brazilian meat. "Nonetheless, we brought down every Brazilian chicken we had after hearing they could have a problem", said a Lotte Mart spokesman.

Temer said the plants under scrutiny represented a tiny proportion of Brazil's meat industry.

But Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Switzerland all announced partial or all-out bans on Brazilian meat imports on Tuesday, following measures similar to those taken by China, the European Union, South Korea and Chile a day earlier.

On Friday, it became public that Brazil's meat producers sold spoiled beef.

One processing plant switched out the labels on expired meat to change the expiration dates, according to investigators.

"We are major importers of Chilean products: fish, fruit and other products, and Brazilians demand that we should erect barriers".

Temer minimized the investigation, saying only 33 of the 11,000 inspectors at the Agriculture Ministry are being investigated.

"The future EU/Mercosur free trade agreement will not lower but will reinforce our high regulatory requirements and food safety standards for agriculture imports", he said.

A total of 89,000 tons of Brazilian chicken was imported to Korea previous year, which accounts for 83 percent of imports.

Brazilian meat is exported to more than 150 countries, with main markets also including Saudi Arabia and Russian Federation.

Meat processor BRF also went on the counter-offensive, taking aim at allegations that cardboard was mixed into chicken products.

"There's been a big misunderstanding in the (audio) recordings of the police", the company said in a statement.

Shares in JBS closed Friday on the Sao Paulo stock exchange down more than 11 percent, while those of BRF fell nearly 8 percent.

  • Leroy Wright