Health scare prompts China to ban Brazilian meat

AFP-JIJI

Brazil said Monday that China had suspended imports of meat from the South American country over police claims that Brazilian exporters had sold tainted products.

“Until it receives more information, China will not unload meat imported from Brazil,” the Brazilian agriculture ministry said in an online statement.

It said Brazil’s agriculture minister Blairo Maggi will hold a videoconference late Monday with Chinese authorities to offer “clarifications” about the meat affair.

Brazilian police said Friday they had found major meat producers bribed health inspectors to certify tainted food as fit for consumption.

The scandal is threatening Brazil’s reputation as the world’s biggest beef- and poultry-exporting nation.

China is the second-biggest importer of Brazilian cattle and bird meat, according to official data.

Chilean Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche also said on Twitter that his government was imposing a “temporary” suspension of meat imports from Brazil.

It said the ban would stay in place until Brazil confirmed that companies exporting meat to Chile had been correctly vetted.

The European Commission meanwhile urged Brazil to ban four companies implicated in the scandal from exporting their meat to the European Union, the bloc’s spokesman, Enrico Brivio, told reporters in Brussels.

The scandal broke just days before the start of negotiations to seek a free-trade accord between the European Union and several South American countries, including Brazil.

At least 30 people have been arrested in the scandal, with Brazilian police raiding more than a dozen processing plants.

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.

Brazilian meat is exported to more than 150 countries, with principal markets including Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands and Italy.

Sales in 2016 reached $5.9 billion in poultry and $4.3 billion in beef, according to Brazilian government data.

France and other European countries are wary about opening up the EU meat market to countries in the South American Mercosur bloc, which includes major exporters Brazil and Argentina.