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Brazil claims meat fears are overdone in a bid to reassure trading partners

Brazilian President Michel Temer eats barbecue in a steak house in Brasilia after meeting with ambassadors from countries that import Brazilian meat
Evaristo SA | AFP | Getty Images
Brazilian President Michel Temer eats barbecue in a steak house in Brasilia after meeting with ambassadors from countries that import Brazilian meat

Brazil's President Michel Temer has told foreign trading partners that they should not lose their appetite for steak in an effort to temper concerns after the country's lucrative meat industry was thrown into turmoil over a corruption scandal.

President Temer met on Sunday with foreign diplomats and executives from Europe, the U.S. and China to say that his government was confident about the quality of Brazilian meat after a series of raids on Friday suggested that some of the country's top meat producers had been selling rotten meat for years.

"The federal government wants to reiterate its confidence in the quality of our national product," commented President Temer.

"This standard of excellence is that over time it has opened the doors of more than 150 countries, with permanent audit, monitoring and risk assessment."

Brazil is the world's largest producer of red meat and relies heavily on exports to Europe, China and the U.S., which provide a $12 billion boost each year to the country's embattled economy.

However, Friday's investigation, which culminated in the closure of three meat-packing plants and deeper probes into a further 21, has thrown the health of the industry into question. Of the 21 under investigation, six ship to international markets.

It is claimed that managers within the firms bribed health inspectors and politicians to obtain government certificates for their products. So far, 30 senior civil servants have been suspended and are under investigation for corruption.

Among the accused are JBS, the world's largest beef exporter, and BRF, the biggest poultry producer. Both companies have denied the allegations.

"We will not tolerate deviations and acts of corruption. We are taking aggressive measures against servers and companies and sharing information with the Federal Police and the Public Prosecutor's Office," Eumar Novacki, executive secretary of the case within Brazil's Federal Police force said on Friday.

Agricultural production employs 6 million people in Brazil and is home to more than 4,800 meatpacking businesses.

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