By Anna Flávia Rochas on 3/20/2017
The Brazilian federal government decided to temporarily close three meat processing plants and remove 33 public employees from their jobs on Friday evening, after the Federal Police launched an investigation Friday morning to dismantle a bribery scheme involving sanitary licenses for adulterated products.Brazil’s president Michel Temer held a meeting with diplomats from Brazil’s meat importers yesterday to reassure quality of the country’s products and sanitary procedures.The Federal Police said on Friday it was investigating federal sanitary inspectors and employees in the food industry for involvement in the scheme, which resulted in releasing meat unfit for consumption. Brazilian processors JBS and BRF are among food companies being investigated.Brazil’s national beef industry association ABIEC said via press statement that none of the beef producing facilities of its 29 member-companies were cited in the Federal Police investigation.BRF’s poultry unit located in Mineiros, Goias state, and two meat processing units of Peccin in Jaraguá do Sul (Santa Catarina) and Curitiba (Paraná) were closed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.BRF said its unit in Mineiros produces less than 5 percent of the company’s total chicken and turkey meat. “The plant is capable of exporting to the most demanding markets in the world, such as Canada, the European Union, Russia and Japan. This means that it follows the different standards stipulated by these countries,” the company said via press statement, adding that the facility has international certifications.BRF said the unit was temporarily closed until it can provide information that affirms the safety and quality of the products to the Ministry of Agriculture, “which should happen soon.”The government decided to establish a special audit procedure for 21 meat processing units cited in the investigation, according to a written press statement sent on Sunday night.Of these 21 processing units mentioned in the investigation, six exported meat in the past 60 days. Further details on countries that received the products, which products were sold and the companies selling have yet to be released, according to the government.Federal officials also said that all the exporting units remain open for inspections by importing countries, and that the Ministry of Agriculture will strengthen cooperation with the Federal Police to investigate eventual deviations in the agricultural defense system.“The federal government reiterates its confidence in the quality of the national product, which has conquered the consumer and obtained approval from the most demanding markets from the point of view of agricultural inspection and defense,” Temer said via press statement.According to government data, 853,000 consignments of animal products from Brazil were shipped abroad in 2016, and only 184 were considered by the importers to be out of compliance, often because of non-sanitary issues such as labeling and filling of certificates.