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Brazil heaves sigh of relief as China lifts meat bans

Tim Graham/Getty Images Meat market in China
China and other countries lift ban on meat imports from Brazil.

China and other major meat importers lifted the ban on meat from Brazil on Saturday after authorities released details of investigation in alleged bribery of health inspectors. 

However, the ban remains in place in China and Chile for the 21 processing plants directly linked to the federal police investigation as it carried out its own inspections. The ban includes the largest meat exporter, Seara Alimentos Ltda, a unit of Brazil's JBS SA.

South Korea was the first to end the temporary ban on imported chicken from Brazil. The country lifted the ban last Tuesday after BFR SA denied wrong doing. Egypt also lifted its short-lived ban on imported Brazilian meat.

Major meat importers quickly issued bans, and meat from Brazil was taken off shelves in supermarkets and food establishments after the Brazilian federal police uncovered details of a large food fraud probe on March 17. The investigation, known as “Operation Weak Flesh,” revealed about 40 cases of meatpackers who had bribed inspectors and politicians to ignore unsanitary practices.

JBS S.A. is expected to resume operations this week after shutting down 33 of its 36 beef plants for three days following the announcement of import bans by several countries. The plants will run at 35% reduction in capacity.

The decision by China to limit the ban to only the 21 plants associated with the investigation was welcomed news to Brazilian officials and meat processors. Meat is the third largest export for the country. Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi told Reuters that “lifting the suspension was the result of a giant effort by Brazil to explain that the investigation targeted the conduct of individuals and not the quality of meat.”

TAGS: Business
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