Tainted Meat Scandal Hits Brazil’s Biggest Food Companies

Brazilian meat producers including JBS SA and BRF SA, the country’s top exporters of beef and chicken, are being investigated as part of a probe into an alleged bribery scheme involving agricultural inspectors and the sale of spoiled food.

Federal police served hundreds of court orders Friday morning, including more than 30 detention warrants, in what local media says is the largest police operation in the country’s history.

Federal agents who inspect agricultural goods agreed to clear food that was unfit for human consumption and allow it to be to sold domestically as school meals and to retail chains including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., according to police and Brazil’s Federal Revenue agency. Some of the meat was also exported, with police alleging three cargoes tainted with salmonella are still en route to Europe. Brazil is the world’s largest beef and chicken exporter, accounting for almost a fifth of global exports.

Cardboard, Pig Heads

Police said they saw evidence companies were tampering with packages to sell products that had already expired and that they found higher-than-permitted levels of parts such as pig heads mixed in with sausages and cold cuts. To mask the aspect and smell, companies added to the meat excessive quantities of certain types of acid, some of which are forbidden, police said. Soybeans and cardboard were also added to the mix. Some of the agents responsible for inspection owned restaurant chains and allegedly received illicit payments, sometimes in the form of prime cuts of meat, according to police.

“I think long and hard before buying meat now,” Police Chief Mauricio Moscardi said in a press conference in Curitiba. “All 40 companies we investigated had issues.”

The police operation comes on the three-year anniversary of the country’s sweeping Carwash investigation, the massive probe…