Brazilian meat-packing companies, Brazil Foods SA (BRF SA) and JBS SA, were recently raided by police after alleged bribery of health officials that could threaten US$12 billion (R152 billion) in annual exports, Reuters reported.
Evidence from ‘Operation Weak Flesh’ revealed that meat-packers had allegedly bribed inspectors and politicians to overlook unsanitary practices such as processing rotten meat, police told Reuters.
“There was evidence of some companies manipulating certificates for meat exports to European markets, raising the risk of foreign restrictions on Brazil’s powerhouse protein industry,” said police investigator Mauricio Moscardi Grillo.
According to industry groups, Brazil exported US$6,9 billion (R87 billion) of poultry and US$5,5 billion (R69 billion) of beef in 2016, , with increased shipments to China and fresh beef meat to the US.
Police arrested five employees in the raids, three from BRF and two from JBS, as well as 20 public officials, Reuters revealed in the article.
“Brazil’s Federal Inspection Service is considered to be one of the world’s most efficient and rigorous monitoring systems,” the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply said in a statement.
The inspection services rely on a staff of 2 300 professionals who inspect 4 837 meat processors accredited to export to 160 countries.
“It was precisely through this service that we have managed to build the reputation of excellence in agriculture and cattle raising and to comply with the rigorous requirements of different nations,” the statement read.
According to Reuters, several isolated facts were under investigation following reports by a civil servant from the inspection department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply that 33 federal inspectors were under investigation and three plants had been closed down, while 21 others had been placed under the special surveillance regime.
Dozens of smaller rivals in the meat-packing sector had also been raided, the Reuters reported.