JBS, BRF among targets of food fraud probe in Brazil

by Erica Shaffer
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Brazil's Federal Police have accused food processors of bribing regulators to loosen oversight.
 

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – The Federal Police in Brazil raided the offices of several meatpackers, including JBS SA and BRF SA, as part of a two-year criminal investigation dubbed “The Flesh is Weak.”

The investigation of federal agricultural inspectors and agribusinesses revealed at least 40 cases of federal regulators accepting bribes in exchange for helping food processors put adulterated food products in the marketplace, according to a statement by the Federal Police.

“The public agents… through payment of bribes, acted to facilitate the production of adulterated foods, issuing sanitary certificates without any effective inspection,” the agency said in a statement.

Approximately 1,100 law enforcement officers served a total of 309 court orders, including 194 for search and seizures at the homes and businesses of individuals allegedly linked to the crimes. The court orders were served in seven states —São Paulo, Federal District, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais and Goiás.

In a regulatory filing, JBS said the operation did not include the company’s executives, and JBS headquarters were not a target.

“The operation conducted today involves companies located in several regions of Brazil, and also involves three of JBS’ facilities, two in Paraná and one in Goiás,” the company said. “In the facility located in Lapa, in the state of Paraná, a judicial measure was issued against one of its veterinarians, a JBS employee, who performs auxiliary inspection services for the Ministry of Agriculture.”

JBS stressed that the company’s operations in Brazil and abroad follow rigorous quality standards “that guarantee food safety and product integrity.” The company added that JBS food production practices have been certified by “highly recognized global entities…”

“The company strongly repudiates any practices related to product adulteration or tampering, whether in the production or sale of products, and it is available to address any concerns with the authorities,” the company said.

Reuters reported that police arrested three BRF employees as well as 20 public officials. BRF has not commented on the investigation.

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