Dozens of Brazilian government officials suspended for exporting rotten meat products

Chile on Monday (March 20) suspended imports of meat from Brazil over claims that corrupt exporters sold tainted products. Some of the companies accused of selling rotten beef include leading brands such as JBS, the world's largest beef exporter, and BRF, the world's top poultry producer.

Earlier in the day, Bloomberg News had reported that Brazilian beef products now on the way to China would not get clearance at customs, citing a source who was notified of the decision.

Brazilian President, Michel Temer, created a task force in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply which has already put the 21 slaughterhouses involved in the Federal Police's Carne Fraca operation under a "special inspection regime".

Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi will meet foreign ambassadors on Monday to reassure them and try to prevent sanctions being issued against Brazilian meat exporters.

Meatpackers are alleged to have bribed dozens of inspectors to keep rotten meat on the market.

Both companies deny irregularities.

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Brazil is the largest beef and chicken exporter with nearly the fifth of global exports and sells it to about 150 countries, according to the Ministry of Development and Foreign Trade.

China is the second-biggest importer of Brazilian cattle and bird meat, according to official data.

Police said among those arrested were two JBS employees and three BRF employees. In a separate statement, BRF said the salmonella strain present in some chicken shipments to Europe is allowed by European Union legislation and called the accusation it mixed cardboard to meat a "big misunderstanding" by the police.

The authorities did not say where tainted products had been found, but noted, in a news conference in the southern city of Curitiba, that carcinogenic substances had in some cases been used to mask the odor of bad meat.

"The federal government wants to reiterate its confidence in the quality of our national product".

There were worries, though, that the recent revelations could hurt attempts to negotiate a trade deal between South America's Mercosur group and the European Union.

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