Brazil meat scandal: Temer assures foreign markets

JBS is the world’s largest meat producer

JBS is the world’s largest meat producer

In a desperate move to prove that Brazilian meat was safe, President Michel Temer on Sunday night invited ambassadors to a steak dinner against a backdrop of allegations that corrupt exporters had sold deliberately mislabelled rotten meat.

To improve the appearance and smell of expired meats, the companies used chemicals and cheaper products such as water and manioc flour, according to investigators.

A poultry-processing plant run by the multinational BRF group and two meat-processing plants operated by the local Peccin company were shut down, the agriculture ministry said.

Brazil, one of the world's largest exporters of meat, would be hit hard by any form of ban.

The European Union asked Brazil to stop companies implicated in the fraud from exporting to the region, according to Enrico Brivio, a spokesman at the European Commission.

President Temer said the issue was "urgent" and that he addressed it with the foreign ambassadors in hope they will pass the message to their governments that there was nothing wrong with Brazilian meat. The bloc has suspended imports from four Brazil plants including one owned by BRF, Ricardo Santin, a director at the Brazilian Association of Animal Proteins, or ABPA, told journalists in Sao Paulo.

Meat giants JBS and BRF were among more than 20 companies targeted in the raids.

Some of the world's biggest protein buyers are slapping limits on supplies from Brazil as producers in the country become embroiled in a tainted-meat scandal.

The EU has been warned time and time again about the risks of South American beef imports, the President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association, Patrick Kent, said.

The removal of export tariffs on inputs for the European Union food and feed sectors is an important objective for the European Union in the negotiations, said the Commission.

It added that those companies follow the strictest domestic and worldwide rules and standards for beef, whether that meat is intended for the domestic market or for export markets.

More than 80 per cent of the 107,400 tonnes of chicken that South Korea imported past year came from Brazil, and BRF supplied nearly half of that.

Officials are arguing that there is no systemic corruption or health problem in the meat industry and that the police operation uncovered only a few bad apples.

Brussels representatives are holding a new round of negotiations this week in Buenos Aires with the countries that make up Mercosur - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay - to advance a trade deal. Of the 21 plants investigated, only six were eligible for export, or had exported product in the last 60 days.

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