BRASILIA – The start of April in Brazil is no joke to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Farming. Officials at the agency signed new regulations for inspections of food manufacturing plants along with stiffer penalties for violations.

The new Regulation of the Industrial and Sanitary Inspection of Products of Animal Origin (RISIPOA) impacts all meat producers and producers of fish, eggs, milk and honey. The decree, which first went into force in 1952, “aims to ensure food safety, as well as combat economic fraud,” according to the Agriculture Ministry. “The standards include sustainability, respect for the environment and animal welfare.”

The new standards under RIISPOA also impose stiffer penalties on companies in violation of the standards. Fines increased to R$500,000 ($160,539) from R$15,000 ($4,816); and companies that violate the standards three times in a year face losing the seal of the Federal Inspection Service (SIF).

The updated RIISPOA is part of an initiative of Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi to simplify and modernize agribusiness. But in the wake of a federal anticorruption investigation that targeted the Brazilian meat packing industry, the new RIISPOA “makes clear the responsibility of companies and the government in the sanitary inspection of products of animal origin,” the agency said.

“The old RIISPOA decree, now 65 years old, has allowed the Brazilian sanitary rules to be recognized by more than 150 countries,” explained Eumar Novacki, executive secretary of the Agriculture Ministry, in a statement. “But it is fair and timely to make updates.”

The Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services released meat export figures for first three months of 2017. Exports of meats, which includes beef, pork, poultry and processed meat, increased 4.4 percent compared to March 2016, but dropped 6.2 percent compared to February 2017, the Ministry of Trade reported. Exports of chicken meat advanced 7 percent in March, while exports of pork jumped 33 percent.

For the first three months of 2017, pork exports increased 43.2 percent, the agency reported.

(1 Brazilian Real = 0.32 US dollar)