63 indicted in Brazilian meat scandal

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Brazil’s Federal Police have published their final report involving the country’s meat scandal, and have indicted 63 people for participating in a corruption scheme, selling expired or adulterated meat, according to a China news agency.

All have been charged with passive corruption, use of forbidden or illicit substances, falsification of medical records, adulteration of food products or substances, embezzlement, malversation, and use of false documentation, among others.

The investigation, which spanned over several years, broke on March 17, causing a total of 45 nations to implement some kind of restrictions on imports from Brazil. By, March 29, only 13 remained closed, accounting for only 5 percent of Brazilian meat exports.

It has reportedly cost Brazil’s meat export market billions in revenues.

“Keeping food safe for all American families is our top priority. FSIS has strengthened the existing safeguards that protect the American food supply as a precaution and is monitoring the Brazilian government’s investigation closely.”

Dubbed Carne Fraca — “The Flesh is Weak” — for a Biblical reference aimed at the health officials who allegedly succumbed to temptation by accepting bribes, included at least 40 incidents. The BBC reported that federal police carried out raids in 194 locations, deploying more than 1,000 officers.

JBS and BRF, two of the plants involved in the scandal, have seen a loss in March of $1.74 billion, according to Economatica, an analysis consulting firm.

A single JBS Seara employee, a low-level manager, was indicted allegedly due to his relationship with federal inspectors.

LOST VALUE

The data showed that JBS, the largest global producer of animal protein, had lost 15.35 percent of its total value since the scandal broke, down from being worth $10.52 billion on March 16 to $8.9 billion the next week. BRF suffered less, losing just 1.45 percent of its value over the same period.

But experts say the scandal is a thing of the past, and exports should return to normal levels between April and May, as efforts have successfully reversed bans. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef and poultry, and the fourth-largest exporter of pork.

In March, Brazil exported 124,880 metric tons of fresh and processed beef products, an 8 percent drop from the same month a year ago, according to Brazilian beef industry group Abrafrigo. These exports generated $489 million in revenue, a 3 percent drop, Abrafrigo said after compiling government data.

“As Brazil’s main clients resume purchases from Brazil, shipments will return to levels close to normality between April and May,” the statement said.

Despite the temporary ban, China remained Brazil’s largest beef importer as it continued to step up direct purchases of the country’s meat products, according to the Abrafrigo report.

According to reports, Brazil senior government officials and executives at meat giants JBS and BRF are included in the corruption and have been charged. A total of 21 meatpacking plants were involved in the investigation, including multinationals BRF and JBS, two of the world’s largest meat producers and exporters.

While the scandal seems to be gaining closure with the arrests, some industry groups are not ready to let it go.

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, along with R-CALF, have sent a petition to the Trump administration asking for a ban on imports of beef from Brazil. The petition is also posted on the We the People Website. Stockgrowers Executive Director Silvia Christen says the ban should remain until all beef sold in the U.S. has a country of origin label.

In March, following the scandal, USDA’s FSIS announced additional steps to keep the food supply safe for American families. None of the slaughter or processing facilities included in the Brazilian investigation have shipped meat products to the U.S., but FSIS immediately instituted a 100 percent pathogen testing on all brazil beef imports.

“Keeping food safe for American families is our top priority,” said Mike Young, USDA Acting Deputy Secretary. “FSIS has strengthened the existing safeguards that protect the American food supply as a precaution and is monitoring the Brazilian government’s investigation closely.” ❖

— Eatherton is a freelance writer from Beaulah, Wyo. When she’s not writing, she’s riding her horse or playing with her grandson. She can be reached at teatherton@msn.com.

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