The trinidad Guardian / The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries yesterday temporarily banned all meat imports from Brazil and rescinded licenses for the importation of such products, following reports of a rotting meat scandal involving some of that country’s top suppliers.
Members of the public were also advised to carefully read the labels of corned beef, chicken patties and chicken nuggets before purchasing them.
In a release, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said they had advised the Chemistry, Food and Drugs Division of the Ministry of Health to embark upon an immediate recall from supermarkets and retail outlets of these products from Brazil.
He said, “I want to emphasise that the products subject to recall are processed meat products only, as Trinidad and Tobago has never issued permits to import raw beef or chicken from Brazil. So while we are cancelling imports of all meat products, the food items being recalled are the corned beef, chicken patties and chicken nuggets made in Brazil.”
Rambharat said given the health implications, he was working directly with Dr. Amery Browne, Trinidad and Tobago’s ambassador in Brazil, to be kept informed of actions being taken by there to restore integrity to its valuable meat-producing sector. The Ministries of Health, Trade, Local Government, Customs and Excise Division and the Consumer Affairs Division are also collaborating to protect consumers from potentially unsafe meat.
In the meantime, he urged consumers who have purchased products made in Brazil to dispose of them, or return them to the place of purchase if they were in possession of a receipt. He also encouraged citizens to report stores where the recalled items were still being sold by calling the Consumer Affairs Hotline at 800-4277.
The fall-out from Brazil’s rotten meat scandal, a probe into which was dubbed “Operation Weak Flesh”, has already accelerated, as Jamaica and China have also suspended imports and the European Union has demanded a partial ban on products.
China, which, with Hong Kong, is Brazil’s biggest meat export market, said it needed to know more about the allegations that major meatpacking businesses bribed inspectors to get health certificates and masked tainted meat as fit for consumption.
The European Commission, the EU executive arm, called on Brazil to immediately halt exports by four companies implicated in the scandal.
The Brazilian government said it had complied, halting exports by all 21 meat processors under investigation. At least 30 people have been arrested in the scandal, with Brazilian police raiding more than a dozen processing plants.
Brazilian meat is exported to more than 150 countries, with principal markets including Japan, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Sales in 2016 reached US $5.9 billion in poultry and US $4.3 billion in beef, according to Brazilian government data.
SATT ready to clean shelves
Supermarket Association of T&T (SATT) president Dr Yunus Ibrahim said yesterday that members are ready to remove product from shelves once it is officially confirmed that there is tainted corned beef in the country.
Ibrahim said SATT is awaiting official word from the Ministry of Health.
But he said the issue raised serious questions about the lack of a functioning quality control laboratory, which was forced to shut down two years ago by the Public Services Association (PSA).
He said while private facilities can be used to test the quality of meat and meat-products entering the country, that would cost the State more.
Ibrahim said supermarket owners and operators of the larger chain stores are “ready and committed to removing product immediately in the best interest of citizens and the country.”