The first secretary of the Brazilian mission to the European Union (EU), Henrique Choer Moraes, said that until now, technical analyses of the problem had not indicated risks to public health. Rather, they pointed to ingredients fraud, such as allowing water in chicken and starch in sausages to exceed permitted quantities.
He was speaking after a 28 March visit to Brazil by EU health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, where he spoke to agriculture minister Blairo Maggi. Andriukaitis will be briefing EU agriculture ministers today (Monday) at an EU agriculture council in Luxembourg. He will take questions on the scandal at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this evening (Monday).
“The European Union’s health commissioner has asked Brazil to reassure European consumers that the food inspection system in the country is reliable. From our perspective, to begin restoring confidence, it is crucial to be fully transparent with our trading partners,” said Moraes.
The Brazilian official to the EU added that export licences for only four out of 260 meat companies exporting to Europe have been suspended and that shipments of the other 256 producers are ongoing, albeit under reinforced and severe checks.
“We have asked them to be vigilant and increase controls on meat – both in terms of documentary and physical checks – coming from Brazil. All consignments from the establishments implicated in the fraud currently ‘en route’ to the EU will be rejected and returned to Brazil,” confirmed a European Commission spokesperson on health and food safety issues.
In Brazil, Andriukaitis was told about urgent measures taken by the Brazilian government in response to the scandal. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) has put in place a task force consisting of 250 officials – including auditors, inspection agents, veterinary and phytosanitary experts – to investigate the problem.
Samples for analyses have also been collected at Brazilian retailers and include products manufactured by the 21 producers implicated in the corruption claims, such as sausages, ham, bacon, hamburgers, frozen chicken and turkey. The results of the analyses may be known next week.
EU officials are planning to conduct a comprehensive audit on Brazilian food health controls, in Brazil, by May. MAPA officials will be making international trips for technical meetings with their overseas counterparts in the meantime.
Meanwhile, “JBS, which is one of the alleged companies, has nearly stopped production and the demand for Brazilian poultry and beef in the EU has slowed down”, noted the secretary general of the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) Jean-Luc Mériaux.