National

Government bans Brazilian meat producers over bribery scandal, says supplies won't be affected

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday the blocking of future imports from 21 Brazilian processing plants involved in a high-profile bribery and tainted-meat scandal will not affect supplies in Japan.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry on Tuesday sent a notice ordering quarantine stations across the country to halt imports of chicken and other products from the 21 Brazilian plants that are suspected of bribing health inspectors to cover up irregularities such as the sale of rotten products.

The scandal, which reportedly also involves JBS SA and BRF SA, Brazil’s two biggest meat suppliers, has attracted strong media attention worldwide because Brazil accounts for 20 percent of global beef exports and almost 40 percent of chicken exports, according to Bloomberg.

“We don’t think it will have a direct impact” on chicken meat supplies in Japan, Suga told a news conference.

According to the chief Cabinet secretary, in fiscal 2015 Japan imported 567,000 tons of chicken meat, of which 430,000 tons came from Brazil. But, he said, produce from only one of the 21 facilities, accounting for 8,900 tons, made its way to Japan.

The plant in question is run by Seara Alimentos Ltda, according to the health ministry. The same plant exported 8,700 tons of chicken meat to Japan in fiscal 2016 that ends on March 31.

The health ministry said so far it had no information indicating there were sanitation issues with the chicken meat exported by Seara Alimentos to Japan.

In a phone interview with The Japan Times, a senior ministry official quoted the Brazilian government as saying that only three of the 21 plants have been investigated for sanitation problems, and the remaining 18, including Seara Alimentos Ltda, were raided for “issues involving money,” presumably illegal transactions.

Japanese farmers produced 1.52 million tons of chicken meat for consumers in fiscal 2015.