Brazilian meat companies BRF and JBS have had a number of facilities raided by police, as the extent of their food corruption scandal deepens.
The two firms, as well as a number of smaller rivals, are suspected by Brazilian authorities of bribing health officials to allow unsafe meat to be exported overseas. BRF and JBS employees are accused of paying inspectors, as well as politicians, to overlook unsanitary conditions and potentially contaminated or rotten meat.
JBS said that three of its plants in the states of Paraná and Goiás were raided by police, while another plant run by BRF was also temporarily closed. Two further plants run by the smaller company Grupo Peccin were also affected.
It’s the culmination of a dire month for BRF, in particular, after it was forced to admit mistakes in a fourth-quarter drop in profits.
The Brazilian food processor reported net operating revenue of BRL 8.6 billion ($2.77 billion) – 1% higher than the previous quarter – but its year-on-year revenue fell, and gross profit was nearly 40% lower than the fourth quarter of 2015.
It later parted company with chief financial officer Alexandre Carneiro Borges.
Brazil exported $6.9 billion’s worth of poultry and $5.5 billion of beef last year, Reuters reported, with particular triumphs in exports to the US and China.
But the country has traditionally struggled with corruption, scoring only 40 out of 100 on Transparency International’s measure of the world’s most corrupt countries.
Brazil’s agriculture minister, Blairo Maggi, suspended all public officials accused in the investigation and promised to worm out those who had acted illegally.
“The important thing now is separating the wheat from the chaff,” he said.
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