| BRASILIA, March 29
BRASILIA, March 29 Brazil needs independent
controls over its meat industry, a top EU health official said
on Wednesday, as he wrapped up a visit to the country rocked by
an anticorruption investigation centering on bribery of its
Brazil's Federal Police say in court documents the bribes
were paid to cover up serious health violations by some
companies in the meat industry, including the sale of rotten and
The police probe, dubbed "Operation Weak Flesh," has caused
some of Brazil's biggest export markets to ban its meats.
The European Union is among the markets that have curbed
imports from Brazil, which is the world's largest beef and
European Union Commissioner for Health and Food Safety
Vytenis Andriukaitis signaled resistance to easing the
restrictions anytime soon.
"This scandal shows how important it is to restore the
trust, reliability and predictability of control systems,"
Andriukaitis told a news conference.
"We need to have an independent official control system. We
need to have transparency," he said.
Brazil's federal food inspectors report to the agriculture
ministry and the system has come under fire for having
politically appointed supervisors.
Andriukaitis told reporters the EU, which suspended imports
from the 21 meat processing plants that are under investigation
last week, could take additional measures next Tuesday.
He declined to be more specific, but said the bloc will be
dispatching a team of auditors to Brazil to visit several
meatpacking plants. The team will report back to EU officials in
Brussels after Easter, he added.
Police have accused more than 100 people, mostly inspectors,
of taking bribes in exchange for allowing the sale of rancid
meat products, falsifying export documents or failing to inspect
meatpacking plants at all.
Prosecutors have yet to present charges and the police
allegations have not been proven.
Government officials have sought to downplay the impact of
the probe. But an industry group said on Tuesday that beef
exports alone fell over 40 percent in terms of both volume and
revenue in March 20-26 from the prior week, as a number of
countries imposed temporary bans.
The long-running investigation into irregularities in
Brazil's meat industry, one of the few robust sectors in an
economy locked in its worst recession on record, was made public
on March 17.
Hong Kong on Tuesday removed one of the last blanket bans on
Brazilian meat imports after it said it was satisfied by
explanations from Brazilian officials. That followed China's
removal of its restrictions last weekend. Together, the two
Asian nations bought about one-third of Brazil's $14 billion in
meat exports last year.
The EU, which suspended imports from the 21 meat processing
plants that are under investigation last week, ranks as the No.
2 importer of Brazilian meats, just behind Hong Kong and before
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle)