Brazilian firms ‘bribed inspectors to keep rotten meat on market’ as plants raided in corruption probe

A truck loaded with chickens arrives at JBS-Friboi chicken processing plant, in Samambaia, Brazil
A truck loaded with chickens arrives at JBS-Friboi chicken processing plant, in Samambaia, Brazil

Two big Brazilian meatpackers bribed inspectors to keep rotten meat on the market, police charged on Friday in issuing dozens of arrest warrants, while a judge accused the Agriculture Ministry of betraying the country.

Part of the money allegedly paid by meatpackers JBS and BRF was channelled to two major political parties, including the one of President Michel Temer, police said after a two-year investigation.

Authorities warned that the case was a severe blow to the international image of Brazil’s agribusiness sector, which officials have been counting on heavily for helping Brazil recover from its worst recession in decades.

Investigator Mauricio Moscardi Grillo said at a news conference that the two meatpackers used chemicals to improve the appearance and smell of expired meats. He said at least one executive reported that rotten meat was mixed with healthy meat to be sold to consumers.

Cheaper products like water and manioc flour were also blended with meat sold by the two companies, Grillo said, adding that three plants have been shut down.

The investigator said school children in the southern state of Parana were fed with dangerous meat. “They are getting food made of outdated, rotten and many times cancerous products so the economic interest of this mighty crime gang is obeyed,” Grillo said.

Police said the meatpackers had direct influence in the Agriculture Ministry so they could pick the inspectors who would visit their plants. Those inspectors would produce sanitary certificates regardless of the adulteration of the products, police said.

In his decision to authorize arrests, Judge Marcos Josegrei da Silva said the Agriculture Ministry has a “staggering” involvement in fraud and corruption….