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Brazil fears shrinking exports amid rotten meat scandal — agriculture minister

The United States, the European Union and China have already requested Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation against unscrupulous meat producers

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 19. /TASS/. Brazil fears that it may lose foreign markets for its agricultural products due to a scandal surrounding the sales of rotten meat by some of its companies, Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said Saturday.

"Most of all I fear that foreign markets will be lost for our products and that domestic consumers will lose their trust in them as well," the minister said in an interview with the Globo newspaper.

The minister confirmed earlier media reports that the United States, the European Union and China have already requested Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation against the unscrupulous meat producers. However, none of these countries has so far announced that it was closing its market for animal products from Brazil.

On Monday, Maggi will attend a meeting by Brazilian President Michel Temer with ambassadors from countries importing meat from Brazil, Globo said. The meeting will be held at 14:00 local time (20:00 Moscow time) in Pal·cio do Planalto, the official workplace of the President of Brazil.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal police arrested members of a major criminal group involved in trade of tainted food, mostly meat. According to police, the operation involved almost 1,100 police officers and became the country’s largest ever. The operation targeted major Brazilian meat producers selling their products both domestically and internationally.

Investigators detained a number of meat industry employees, who are suspected of bribing agriculture watchdogs to receive quality certificates for low-quality goods without proper checks. Some of those money were reportedly used to finance political parties.

Police says that the suspects also used acid and other chemicals to make the rotten meat appear fresh.

Brazilian authorities say they have no information on whether these low-quality products were exported to other countries.

Brazilian meat giants JBS SA and BRF SA were named among the companies that are under the investigation.

JBS SA, one of the world’s biggest beef producers, exported its products to 150 states, including Russia, last year. On January 14, Russian agriculture watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor imposed temporary restrictions on JBS SA products following the discovery of listeria, a bacteria that causes listeriosis. The disease is the third-leading cause of death from foodborne illness, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).