Brazil gov't says crackdown on tainted meats not to disrupt exports

Brazil's government on Wednesday dismissed fears that a crackdown on tainted meats would disrupt exports.

One of the world's biggest meat exporters, Brazil launched an operation earlier this week against meatpackers suspected of covering up meat contaminated with salmonella.

"I don't think the operation will affect exports. If the operation were due to something happening today, it would be different, but it's not. It's about things that happened in the past," Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi told reporters.

Monday's operation was the latest stage of an investigation that began in March last year, and so should not affect the current meat supply, he said.

Police disbanded a ring that forged certificates of quality for four meatpackers belonging to Brazilian firm BRF, the world's leading poultry producer.

The meatpackers exported to 12 countries that specifically required certificates proving products were free of salmonella.

Last year, the police operation, dubbed "Weak Flesh," revealed the meatpackers were selling expired or adulterated meats, and paying inspectors to look the other way.

The revelations led some 20 countries to suspend their imports of Brazilian meats. The government then stepped in to apply stricter controls and imports have since resumed.

According to Maggi, the ministry is "99 percent" certain that since March 2017, when the operation was first launched, irregularities at BRF meatpacking centers have been eliminated.

BRF has considerably reduced the presence of salmonella in its products, said the minister.

Brazilian authorities allow for a higher presence of salmonella in poultry than many other countries because the meat is always cooked, Maggi said.

"Scientifically, there is no problem with consuming this meat, because chicken is not consumed raw. At higher than 60 degrees, all types of salmonella, except two, are destroyed," said Maggi.

Salmonella bacteria is a leading cause of food poisoning.


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