(Adds comments from food safety secretary, paragraphs 7-13)
BRASÍLIA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Brazil’s agriculture minister said on Thursday a bill will be sent to Congress in the first 100 days of the year to introduce more self-monitoring of food processors, as the world’s largest beef and chicken exporter has outgrown the current system that relies on daily presence of inspectors at meatpacking plants.
The ministry will propose changes in that bill, while other modifications can be made through administrative measures, Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on self-monitoring.
Earlier this year, Dias told Reuters in an interview that the government would propose more self-monitoring in the first half of 2019.
At the seminar, she said in her speech that the ministry is proposing increased independence for industries including meat-packing, wine production and even fertilizers.
“The state does not have more legs. Our economy, our agribusiness in gigantic,” Dias said. “We have no means to conduct daily controls.”
Dias said the presence of inspectors at meat plants on a daily basis is not necessary.
Under self-monitoring, companies would submit results from their own inspections to a centralized government system, said José Guilherme Leal, the ministry’s agriculture defense secretary.
Government auditors would then selectively make checks to verify the findings, he said.
Based on scientific research and data analysis, the government can deploy auditors better by pinpointing the areas of highest risk or where improvement is needed, he said.
The bill will make self-inspection programs mandatory across all products, laying the legal groundwork for the ministry to spell out rules for each segment, he said. It will also set out stiffer penalties for violators of food safety standards.
Self-monitoring is already allowed at certain stages of the inspection of meat and other animal products, he said, but can be expanded further.
For example, Brazil will roll out new rules allowing for more self-inspection of pork processing plants later this year, implementing a ministry regulation announced in December.
The ministry is studying similar regulations for chicken that could be issued this year, while changes for beef could come next year, he said. Those regulations do not require Congressional approval.
Last year, commercial partners banned certain Brazilian meat producers after a federal probe revealed alleged bribery and falsified inspection results in the meat exporting industry.
The scandal briefly threatened about $15 billion in exports from Brazil’s powerhouse protein industry as markets from China to Europe curtailed shipments of meat pending a review of the South American nation’s inspection protocols. (Reporting by Jake Spring and Ana Mano Editing by David Gregorio)