EU Commissioner for health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, met Brazilian minister of agriculture, Blairo Maggi, this week to hear about the next steps he and his government are planning.
Andriukaitis is currently on an official visit to that country where an anti-corruption investigation has been underway for the past few weeks into allegations of bribery of its food hygiene inspectors.
"I want to see the minister's commitment to demonstrate that we can have full trust in their official controls – in their independent official controls. This would send a message to Brazilian partners that the Brazilian system is able to deliver trust, reliability and predictability. The suspicion of corruption is unacceptable. And even more so, when it comes to peoples' health, here or in Europe," he said.
An EU health spokesperson told us the Commissioner is set to debrief EU ministers of agriculture about Brazilian official controls at the AGRIFISH Council in Luxembourg on Monday 3 April. He will also attend a plenary of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg that evening to address a question for oral answer from the AGRI Committee on the Brazilian meat probe.
Yesterday saw representatives of the EU-27 meet with the Commission in the Standing Committee of Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) to hear about the reinforced checks introduced in response to the Brazilian meat processing investigation.
“A full consensus was reached on these reinforced checks and on how they should be targeted. In particular, it was confirmed there should be 100% physical checks on all consignments presented for import to the EU and 20% microbiological checks,” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, several countries have now lifted their bans on meat imports from Brazil.
China, Egypt, and Chile reopened their markets last weekend.
They did so as the Brazilian government requested importing countries to only block exports from the 21 plants implicated in the investigation.
Feed facility implicated
On Monday (27 March), the Brazilian ministry of agriculture reported it had run audits in all the plants involved in the official probe, and said the teams did not find anything that could put the health of consumers at risk.
In total, it said, 164 samples were collected for testing from the 21 plants. The ministry said sample collection efforts went beyond the production sites of the audited establishments themselves. It also extended to retail destinations, from which the ministry collected 174 samples of products manufactured by the companies in 22 states. The final results will be known within two weeks.
The ministry added that, to date, it has found technical irregularities in 12 samples, such as water content above the maximum allowed in chicken and non-standard starch contents in sausage. “No abnormality has been detected in the samples analysed that can bring harm to human health," said the minister.
The audit task force involved 250 civil servants of the ministry, including staff inspectors and inspection/agricultural agents, who conducted "thorough reviews" of the establishments listed in the operation.
Each team, said the ministry, looked into manufacturing and raw material controls and questioned employees, in addition to assessing hygiene conditions. It said a feed company that was using expired by-products was closed.