BRAZILIAN authorities yesterday lifted suspensions on three meat processing facilities at the centre of the country’s recent meat inspection crisis.
In a statement issued yesterday, Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply authorised the three meat processing facilities under investigation in the Federal Police’s ‘Operation Weak Flesh’ to resume exports, after an audit found no irregularities in their activities.
But if history is anything to go by, the media behind the frenzy that erupted last month with fake news headlines about ‘rotten’ and ‘tainted’ meat being exported by Brazil will make no attempt to set the record straight.
There is a big gap between a suspension or investigation and any form of wrongdoing being found, but credible international media including Britain’s BBC was evidently not prepared to wait for any findings before filing earlier dramatic reports.
The Brazilian Federal Police announced on March 18 that it was investigating 33 federal agricultural meat inspectors and 21 meat processing plants over an alleged bribery scheme. Investigations into the activities of a small number of individual meat inspectors continue.
While most of the investigations involved poultry or pork processing facilities, beef very quickly became embroiled in customer country responses, as most media reports made little or no distinction between species, simply referring to ‘meat’ processors.
In response to the media-fuelled episode, a dozen importing countries including many of Brazil’s largest chicken, pork and beef customers either suspended imports altogether, or applied far higher levels of product inspection at entry.
Brazil’s main importers including China, Hong Kong, Egypt, South Korea and Chile have already resumed trade. Countries still enforcing bans include Mexico and a basket of minor customers in the West Indies plus Zimbabwe, Algeria, Bahrain and Angola, according to a list updated by the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday.
China reduced volumes of Brazilian fresh pork meat purchases in March by 24 percent, while Hong Kong reduced imports by 27pc, and Chile by 33pc, as a result of the earlier customer-imposed trade suspensions.
- See today’s monthly “Kay’s Cuts” column from US market commentator Steve Kay, for more perspective on the implications from Brazil’s recent meat inspection crisis.