Brazil's president in damage control mode as countries stop meat imports

2017-03-20 22:40:14 GMT2017-03-21 06:40:14(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

BRASILIA, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Brazil's President Michel Temer said Monday that the problems found in the frozen meat sector, during police raids on Friday, only affected a small part of the sector.

Speaking to a crowd of businessmen at the American Chamber of Commerce in Sao Paulo, Temer admitted that the affair could severely impact one of Brazil's main exports.

"Agribusiness is very important for us and cannot be devalued by a small nucleus. (Those responsible) will at least be found, fined and punished. But we cannot endanger the whole system we have put together over the years. We export to over 150 countries," said the president.

The operation carried out by police on Friday found that some of Brazil's largest food companies, including the JBS group and Brasil Foods, had committed fraud in order to hide foodstuffs beyond their sell-by date.

The frozen meat vendors are accused of hiding the use of expired raw materials, using chemicals to mask the bad smell of rotten produce and of failing to meet standards in their production.

Furthermore, certain officials at the Ministry of Agriculture are accused of taking bribes to authorize the sale of illegal products.

For Temer, however, those responsible are small in number compared to the over 11,000 employees at the ministry.

"We have very rigorous sanitary evaluation methods in Brazil," he explained.

Furthermore, Temer stated that small industrial plants were suspected of these incidents, which he said were minimal compared to the sector as a whole.

On Sunday, in an effort to show his confidence in the meat sector, Temer dined out with a group of ministers and ambassadors at a "churrascaria", a traditional Brazilian meat restaurant in Brasilia.

However, a report from daily, O Estado de Sao Paulo, showed the restaurant imports beef from Argentina, Uruguay and Australia.