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Brazil president meets ministers, ambassadors over rotten meat

Brazil president meets ministers, ambassadors over rotten meat

BRASÍLIA: President Michel Temer was to hold crisis talks Sunday with his cabinet and foreign ambassadors over allegations that corrupt Brazilian producers have been selling rotten meat around the world for years.

The revelation on Friday of a two-year police probe into alleged bribery of health inspectors to certify tainted food as fit for consumption has struck at the heart of the world’s leading exporter of beef and chicken.

Temer, whose government is already battered by a huge embezzlement scandal and fallout from Brazil’s deepest recession in history, was to huddle first with meatpacking representatives and his ministers of agriculture and foreign trade.

Next up will be ambassadors from countries that are major importers of Brazilian meat.

Brazilian multinationals caught up in the growing scandal insisted on Saturday that their products were safe, but the scandal has sparked growing public fears. It comes at a sensitive time, as Brazil and other members of South America’s Mercosur group are pushing for a trade deal with the European Union, a big market for Brazilian meat.

Temer had been scheduled to speak by phone on Saturday with US President Donald Trump, though their agenda was unclear. The United States last year began accepting imports of raw beef from Brazil. Brazilian authorities on Friday raided more than a dozen meatpacking centers, issuing 27 arrest warrants and closing a chicken-processing plant run by the multinational BRF group and two meat-processing plants operated by the local Peccin company, the Agriculture Ministry said.

An additional 21 establishments are under investigation, and the ministry dismissed 33 officials involved in the scheme. The authorities did not say where tainted products had been found, but noted, in a news conference in the southern city of Curitiba, that carcinogenic substances had in some cases been used to mask the odor of bad meat.

Federal police were due to give details at a press conference on Monday.

In addition to the giant BRF firm, which owns the Sadia and Perdigao brands, companies under investigation include JBS, a world leader in meat sales and owner of the Big Frango, Seara Alimentos and Swift brands. JBS took out a full-page ad in the newspaper O Globo to say that the federal office conducting the investigation had made no mention of health problems stemming from JBS products. The BRF group is running similar ads, saying its products pose no health risk “whatsoever.”—AFP

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