TRINIDAD & TOBAGO - If some of the largest consumers of Brazilian meat such as China and the EU as well as several countries in the region have expressed confidence in the safety of the meat products from the South American country and lifted their import bans, T&T should follow suit also.
Brazilian Ambassador to T&T Paulo Sérgio Traballi Bozzi said this was a positive course of action that should be seriously considered by the T&T Government.
Mr Bozzi, speaking to the Sunday Guardian from the Brazilian Embassy in St Clair, Port-of-Spain on Thursday, said of the 4,800 meat processing plants in Brazil, only 21 were under investigation and T&T’s supply of corned beef did not come from any of them.
Mr Bozzi also said one of the plants under investigation was 700 kilometres away from the facilities that T&T’s corned beef came from and there was little chance of contamination.
Brazilian police unveiled on 17 March an investigation codenamed “Operation Weak Flesh” which found evidence of meat packers bribing inspectors and politicians to overlook health and safety violations such as processing rotten meat and shipping exports with traces of salmonella.
Mr Bozzi said considering that most of the large importers such as China (the biggest national consumer of Brazilian meat), EU, US, Hong Kong, Egypt and even in the region, Jamaica, Barbados and Cayman Islands had already lifted the ban on imported meat products and actually returned the goods back to the supermarkets for retail after the authorities clarified details of a police investigation into alleged bribery of health inspectors, the Brazilian Government was now talking with T&T Government representatives to see if it can lift the ban.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said on Tuesday that a temporary restriction on imports and retail sales of meat products from Brazil since 21 March, will stay in place for T&T.
Mr Bozzi said: “The problem with Brazilian beef is not a sanitary problem, it’s a problem of corruption.
“All the men responsible are either now in jail or being processed by the Brazilian justice system.
“The stance by the T&T Government took us as a very big surprise because T&T doesn’t buy Brazilian whole meat, Brazil doesn’t export fresh or frozen meat to T&T.
“What T&T importers buy from Brazil is corned beef which is processed meat which goes through many stringent safety measures for the health of consumers.”
Mr Bozzi said another point that he wanted to stress was that the Brazilian meat industry was very transparent, anyone from any country can arrange a site visit and view a meat plant which met international health and safety standards as well as countries’ religious and dietary customs regarding the processing of meat.
He said Brazil was the second largest meat exporting country in the world and exported meat to Israel and the Jewish country which kept a team of veterinarians and health inspectors in Brazil to ensure that the meat was kosher, satisfying the requirements of Jewish law.
Mr Bozzi said Arabic countries as well kept teams of inspectors in Brazil to supervise the exportation of meat bound for their market and that it was halal.
He said he hoped that the authorities in T&T can understand that a country that sells meat to 150 countries all over the world such as the US, China and Japan and also exported more than 1 million metric tons of beef in 2016 would jeopardise its reputation because of the graft of a corrupt few.
Mr Bozzi said the Government of T&T was right to preserve and protect the health of its citizens but the Brazilian Government was waiting for the lifting of the ban.
“We believe by now that it has been amply shown that there is no danger and these measures should be reviewed,” Mr Bozzi said.
Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said on Friday that T&T had asked the Brazilian Government to provide the ministry with specific assurances regarding the integrity of the certification process on which the ministry relied.
He said that it was one thing for the Brazilian Government to make a blanket statement about which plants were being investigated.
Mr Rambharat said, however, that did not tell the ministry that other plants would not be added to the list.
He said T&T’s Ambassador to Brazil Dr Amery Browne met with some of the key people on Friday and he was awaiting his advice.
Mr Rambharat said once they were assured that the certification process was being carried out with integrity, the ban and recall will be reviewed.
When Supermarket Association of T&T (SATT) president Dr Yunus Ibrahim was contacted on Friday, he said most of the importers had proof their corned beef did not come from any of these 21 plants.
Regarding the stocks of unsold corned beef in supermarket owners’ inventories, Dr Ibrahim said association members took it upon themselves to voluntarily remove them from their shelves.
TheCattleSite News Desk