Brazil rocked by rotten meat scandal

It said Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi will hold a videoconference late Monday with Chinese authorities to offer "clarifications".

In a major operation last Friday, police issued 38 arrest warrants and accused some major meatpacking companies of widespread bribery of health inspectors to hide unsanitary conditions.

President Michel Temer told the diplomats that Brazil's "government wants to reiterate its confidence in the quality of our national product".

China, which accounted for almost one-third of the Brazilian meatpacking industry's $13.9 billion in exports a year ago, suspended imports of all meat products from Brazil as a precautionary measure.

The principal importers of Brazilian meats are China, Japan, Saudia Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Kuwait, Venezuela, Chile, Russia, and Egypt.

The Brazilian police operation codenamed "Weak Flesh" was likely to deal a heavy blow to one of the few sectors of Latin America's largest economy that has thrived during a two-year recession. Much of the meat produced by these companies is exported to Europe and other parts of the world.

According to police reports, the meat companies could also chose the inspectors they wanted to visit their plants.

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

Earlier in the day, Bloomberg News had reported that Brazilian beef products now on the way to China would not get clearance at customs, citing a source who was notified of the decision.

Temer set up the meeting following inquiries from the European Union and China over the scandal.

The two firms are Brazilian food giant BRF, which owns the Sadia and Perdigao brands, and JBS, a global firm in meat sales and owner of the Big Frango, Seara Alimentos and Swift brands.

On the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second-largest city, the scandal left many consumers in doubt.

Ricardo Santin, ABPA's vice president of markets, said two of the suspended plants process poultry, one beef and the other horse meat. "Should I eat it or just throw it all away?"

  • Todd Kelly