Brazil provides update on meat industry audits

Only small number of samples contained potential public health risk.

Eumar Novacki, executive secretary of Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock & Food Supply (Map), provided an update April 6 on the audits of the 21 establishments that had been under suspicion since the announcement of the Brazilian meat investigation known as "Operation Weak Flesh."

According to Novacki, 302 samples of products were collected by a task force. Of this total, 31 samples (10.2%) presented economic problems -- not necessarily fraud, but non-compliance with technical norms, such as excess starch in sausage or addition of water, in addition to that allowed in chicken. Of the 302, eight samples (2.6%) had small problems that could affect public health. Of these eight, seven had a confirmed presence of salmonella, and one had staphylococci. All samples were sent for analysis by the National Agriculture & Livestock Laboratory (Lanagro) of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The 31 samples with economic problems refer to sausages, which were found to contain sorbic acid -- a preservative prohibited in sausages and sausages. These products came from Souza Ramos refrigerators in the city of Colombo (PR) and have already been collected. Excess starch was also verified in sausages produced by Peccin, from Curitiba (PR) and Jaraguá do Sul (SC).

Economic problems were also found in the production of chicken with excess water, processed by the unit of BRF de Mineiros (GO) and by Chicken DM.

Of the eight product reviews that posed a potential risk to public health, seven reports refer to hamburgers contaminated with salmonella, produced by Transmeat (SIF 4644), owner of the Novilho Nobre brand. This production line of the company was closed and the product lots collected on March 23. The products will be discarded and destroyed, Novacki stated.

The presence of the bacterium Staphylococcus coagulas was verified as positive in cooked sausage produced by FrigoSantos Frigorífico (SIF 2021). "This analysis was only completed this morning, and the preventive collection of the sausage and the prohibition of this production line were determined," Novacki said.

The Federal Inspection Service (SIF) was cancelled for the Peccin refrigerators (SIFs 825 and 2155) and the Meat Center (SIF 3796). "Other refrigerators may also have the registration revoked as our audits progress. Everyone who has made a mistake will have to pay. It does not matter if they are big or small," Novacki warned.

Under guidance of Brazil's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi and the fact that the task force closed the work before the three weeks scheduled, Map will resume its regular audit schedule.

"We want these audits to give us the real state of how inspection services are working in each state. All results will be disclosed and shared with the Federal Police and the Federal Public Ministry," he said.

Novacki added that Maggi has ordered that all indications of crime, whether against public health or economic, will be forwarded to the Public Ministry and the Federal Police for appropriate measures. “We, in the Map, are limited to the administrative sphere, and it is up to the Justice and the Federal Police to investigate, arrest, prosecute and convict, " Novacki noted.

To regain market confidence and demonstrate the robustness of Brazil's animal product surveillance system, Novacki plans to travel April 17-27 to meet with officials from the governments of Iran, Egypt and Algeria. In May, Blairo will visit China, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Europe to intensify negotiations with importers of Brazilian meat.

Fitch Ratings recently told Forbes magazine that Brazil's latest political scandal is unlikely to pose a systemic risk to the economy, and any spillover effects are more manageable than not. However, Fitch also noted that, in a worst-case scenario, estimates of additional losses across the whole agribusiness chain could reach 15 billion reals ($4.76 billion).

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