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Brazil tries to contain damage from meat scandal

Amid a scandal over the sale of rotten meat, Brazil’s government has been bending over backward to assure foreign consumers there has been no health threat. The president himself chose to deal with the matter.In a desperate move to prove that Brazilian meat was safe, President Michel Temer on Sunday night invited ambassadors to a steak dinner against a backdrop of allegations that corrupt exporters had sold deliberately mislabelled rotten meat.

The scare started at the end of last week, when police raided more than a dozen processing plants. Three facilities were shut down right away and at least 30 people were arrested after it became known that bad meat had been sold and fraudulent certificates issued.

In some cases, carcinogenic chemicals had been used to mask the smell of the meat, authorities confirmed.

Mercosur deal in jeopardy?

Meeting ambassadors, Temer had the daunting mission of calming the scandal, which was threatening the reputation of the world’s biggest exporter of beef and poultry.

Brazilian meat is shipped to 150 nations; sales last year reached $5.9 billion (5.48 billion euros) in poultry and $4.3 billion in beef, according to government data.

In Temer’s address to the ambassadors (only 19 out of 33 took him up on the invitation), the President acknowledged that the scandal had caused “major concern.” But he insisted that the tainted meat occurred in “only a very few businesses” and did not represent a wider problem.

There were worries, though, that the recent revelations could hurt attempts to negotiate a trade deal between South America’s Mercosur group and the European Union. That’s because the countries which are party to trade deals must not only have good reason to be confident that each others’ regulations are properly designed to protect consumers – the regulations must also be properly implemented.

The EU ambassador to Brazil, Joao Cravinho, said he wanted “complete, urgent clarification from the agriculture ministry.”

hg/nz (AP, AFP)

Topics: Brazil meat scandal

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