CHINA has placed a temporary ban on Brazilian meat imports, following dramatic weekend media reports published across the world suggesting a major meat industry scandal is unfolding in Brazil.
While some of the substance of the reports now appears to be under question, China’s regulatory body, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine nevertheless yesterday put a hold on all customs clearance and quarantine of Brazilian meat until further notice.
The AQSIQ advised Chinese importers to keep any ‘uninspected’ products in a customs warehouse for further instruction. Some suggest this might signal that any ban may be only short-lived.
Senior Brazilian Government representatives apparently flew to Beijing over the weekend to try to resolve the issue. One Chinese importer is reported to have 160 containers of Brazilian beef on the water. If left unresolved, the ban will inevitably have a huge impact on the Chinese beef market, Beef Central was told.
The catalyst for the ban has been a series of media reports since Friday which have claimed a meat industry ‘scandal’ is unfolding in Brazil, with reports of ‘tainted’ and ‘rotten’ Brazilian meat being sold as a result of meat inspectors receiving bribes.
Britain’s BBC reported that authorities in Brazil had suspended 30 government officials in response to unsourced allegations that some of the country’s biggest meat processors had been “selling rotten beef and poultry for years.”
The claims appear to relate to discovery of frozen meat being used by a small value-adding company where use-by dates on product had expired. While just one small company was cited for doing so, press reports implied that investigations had suggested that other larger national processors were involved in the same practise.
The media reports have stemmed from a two-year Brazilian investigation into Federal Government-employed meat inspectors. Allegations suggested that inspectors were colluding with companies to allow them to sell tainted meat – primarily pork and poultry.
Sources close to the Brazilian industry told Beef Central that police had visited processing plants to gain access to meat inspectors’ computers, phones and records. Of more than 4700 federal-inspected meat plants, the investigations focussed on just 21. Just three of those were shut down by the Ministry of Agriculture – one owned by BRF over salmonella in chicken, and two small further-processing plants owned by independent operators. Of the 21 plants investigated, only six were eligible for export, or had exported product in the last 60 days.
The investigations led to the suspension of about 30 of more than 1100 Brazilian Federal meat inspectors, pending further scrutiny.
Almost all of the investigations were focussed on just one Brazilian state.
While the media reports referenced a number of second and third-tier meat processing and value-adding companies, some of the largest processors in Brazil, included BRF and JBS, have also been accused by media of wrongdoing.
JBS vigorously denied the allegations, issuing this statement about the recent events on the weekend:
“There are no allegations in the judge’s order that JBS or its executive management violated food safety or product quality standards, or engaged in any wrongdoing. The investigation is focused on the actions of Brazilian Federal Meat Inspectors. JBS has been inappropriately connected to this story.
“JBS is not accused of selling tainted or rotten meat, no JBS branded products were associated with the product tampering reported by the media and no actions have been taken against JBS or any of its executives or managers. We adopt strict standards in all of our food safety processes and quality control systems to ensure the safety and quality of our products. We have complete confidence in our approach to food safety and product quality in Brazil, and in all of our operations around the world.”
According to earlier reports from the New York Times, the alleged ‘scheme’ involved bribery allowing rotten meat to be served in Brazil’s public schools and salmonella-contaminated meat to be exported to Europe.