China and the European Union curtailed meat imports from Brazil after police accused inspectors of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats.
As the scandal deepened, Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said the government had suspended exports from 21 meat processing units, Reuters reports.
But he also criticized the investigation by Brazil’s Federal Police into meatpacking companies, calling their findings “alarmist” and saying they used a few isolated incidents to tarnish an entire industry that maintains rigorous standards.
An all-out ban on Brazilian meat exports would be a “disaster,” Maggi added.
With other import curbs expected to follow, the scandal stemming from a police operation codenamed “Weak Flesh” could deal a heavy blow to one of the few sectors of Latin America’s largest economy that has thrived during a two-year recession.
Brazil is the world’s biggest export of beef and poultry.
Police on Friday named BRF SA and JBS SA, along with dozens of smaller rivals, in a two-year probe into how meatpackers allegedly paid off inspectors to overlook practices including processing rotten meat, shipping exports with traces of salmonella and simply not carrying out inspections of plants.
JBS is the world’s largest meat producer and BRF the biggest poultry exporter.
The companies have denied any wrongdoing, and authorities have said no cases of death or illness have been linked to the tainted meat investigation.
Brazil’s President Michel Temer has sought to downplay the meatpacking probe, saying it involved only 21 of Brazil’s more than 4,800 meat processing units.
China, which accounted for nearly one-third of the Brazilian meatpacking industry’s US$13.9 billion in exports last year, suspended imports of all meat products from Brazil as a precautionary measure.
The European Union suspended imports from four Brazilian meat processing facilities, Brazil’s beef producers association ABPA said, citing the nation’s agriculture ministry.
South Korea’s agriculture ministry said in a statement that it would tighten inspections of imported Brazilian chicken meat and temporarily bar sales of chicken products by BRF.
– Contact us at [email protected]