Brazil meat scandal: Temer tries to reassure partners

image copyrightAP
image captionMr Temer invited foreign diplomats to a steak house in Brasilia after a formal meeting at the presidential palace

Brazil's President Michel Temer has sought to reassure foreign trade partners that the corruption scandal engulfing the country's meat industry does not mean its products are unsafe.

Meeting ambassadors from Europe, the United States and China, Mr Temer said his government remained confident about the quality of Brazilian meat.

Top meat-packers have been accused of selling rotten produce for years.

Brazil is the world's biggest red meat exporter.

"The Brazilian government reiterates its confidence in the quality of a national product that has won over consumers and obtained the approval of the most rigorous markets," said Mr Temer.

'Urgent clarifications'

On Friday, federal police raided meat-producing plants and arrested more than 30 people.

The government suspended more than 30 senior civil servants who should have spotted the unhygienic and illegal practices.

They are being investigated for corruption.

Three meat-packing plants have been closed and another 21 are being investigated.

Mr Temer said the plants under scrutiny represented a tiny proportion of Brazil's meat industry.

"Only 21 units out of 4,837 in Brazil subject to government inspection are facing allegations of irregularities. And only six of them have exported in the past 60 days," said Mr Temer.

image copyrightAFP
image captionBoth JBS and BRF say they are co-operating with the police

The Brazilian government is worried that the US, China and the EU may ban meat imports from Brazil, worth $12bn (£9.7bn) a year.

EU ambassador Joao Cravinho tweeted on Sunday that he would demand "complete, urgent clarifications from the agriculture ministry".

'Carcinogenic chemicals'

Operation Weak Flesh was launched in the early hours of Friday in six Brazilian states after a two-year investigation.

Federal police carried out raids in 194 locations, deploying more than 1,000 officers.

The investigators allege that some managers bribed health inspectors and politicians to get government certificates for their products.

They accuse more than 30 companies of a number of unhygienic practices. Among them are JBS, the world's largest beef exporter, and BRF, the world's top poultry producer.

"They used acid and other chemicals to mask the aspect of the product. In some cases, the products used were carcinogenic," the police said.

Both JBS and BRF said they followed high quality standards and sanitary regulations.

Prosecutors say a percentage of the bribe money was paid to two parties from the governing coalition: the PP and President Michel Temer's PMDB.

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