All Brazilian meat banned

Top News | Sophie Hui 22 Mar 2017

Hong Kong banned all meat and poultry from Brazil yesterday amid a growing rotten-meat scandal in the South American country.

Three supermarket chains - Wellcome, ParknShop and AEON - removed Brazilian meat from their shelves as major fast-food chain Fairwood stopped offering char siu roast pork.

China has banned red meat imports from Brazil, while the European Union said it would stop buying from companies implicated in the scandal.

The crisis was triggered by a huge federal police operation. It found that meat-packers had been selling rotten and substandard produce for years.

More than 30 workers at plants were arrested and the government suspended more than 30 senior civil servants who should have acted.

Three meat-packing plants have been closed and another 21 are being investigated.

Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety said yesterday: "In view of the fact that the quality of the meat exported from Brazil is in question, for the sake of prudence, the center has temporarily suspended the import of frozen and chilled meat and poultry meat from Brazil with immediate effect." It added: "Upon learning of the incident, the CFS immediately contacted the Brazilian authorities concerned and the investigation by the Brazilian authorities is ongoing.

"Furthermore, surveillance on meat and poultry meat from Brazil will be enhanced to safeguard food safety and public health."

It advised people to cook meat and poultry thoroughly before consumption.

Fairwood said it uses meat from Brazil to make char siu but to safeguard customers' health, it stopped offering it from yesterday until it can find a reliable source.

A Wellcome spokesperson said: "Food safety is Wellcome's top priority and we are closely monitoring the situation.

"We have instructed our stores to remove frozen and chilled meat and poultry meat from Brazil from our shelves as a precautionary measure."

Customers can also exchange and get a refund on foods with receipts if they have questions.

ParknShop said: "We always take food safety and hygiene seriously.

"As a precautionary measure, we will remove from shelves all meat and poultry products from Brazil.

"We have also sent Brazilian frozen meat and poultry samples for testing."

It said customers are welcome to get a refund or exchange. The company will follow up the case with the Centre for Food Safety and its Brazilian meat suppliers.

Meanwhile, popular restaurant Braza Churrascaria Brazilian Steakhouse in Lan Kwai Fong stressed it uses only meat from Australia and not from Brazil.

Spokeswoman Maggie Navonne said if the customers ask the source of the meat, they will tell them.

Housewives expressed concern as consumers can get Brazilian meat easily from stores and supermarkets, considering its relatively low price and fair quality.

Maggie Cheung, 49, said she worried that she may buy the problematic meat and affect her children's health.

She said there were no clear labels in wet markets so she could not be sure where the meat came from.

The Hong Kong Merchandise Trade Statistics - Imports that were released in January said the city imported nearly 40 million kilograms of frozen beef, pork and poultry meat from Brazil, equivalent to 37 percent of the imported meat and costing some US$700 million (HK$5.46 billion).

Two of the largest meat processing companies in Brazil, JBS and BRF, which are under investigation by the Brazilian government for producing and selling problematic meat, have also exported meat to Hong Kong. The Consumer Council said no complaints about Brazilian meat have been received but suggested consumers buy meat from reputable stores and not buy products with an unknown source.

After two years of investigation, Brazilian police discovered meat producers bribed officers from the Ministry of Agriculture in exchange for fraudulent sanitary licenses, and they sold and exported contaminated meat to other countries.

Brazil is the world's largest beef and poultry exporting country.

Although Brazilian President Michel Temer dined with ambassadors at a Brazilian meat house to show his confidence on the quality of the country's meat on Sunday, nations including China, South Korea, Chile and Jamaica, and the European Union, have imposed bans.

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