Brazil, one of the world’s top meat producers and exporters, is in a bit of a pickle. Some of its top meat producers are being investigated for corruption: for selling rotten beef and poultry, bribing hygiene inspectors, and adding harmful additives to the meat. Yum!
Beef was reportedly repackaged for sale past its hygienic sell-by date and soy products were passed off as turkey. According to the BBC, chicken meat was mixed with potato, water and sometimes cardboard. On top of this, “acid and other chemicals” were used “to mask the aspect of the product [which] In some cases…were carcinogenic,” according to Police.
One such carcinogenic chemical detected was ascorbic acid, AKA vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient in our diets. Yet what is potentially harmful is the consumption of these additives in large and sustained quantities, as well as the fact that consumers were not aware of how much they were consuming.
Civil servants and business owners are also accused of paying hygiene inspectors to issue certificates without actually carrying out any real inspections.
The police investigation, known as Weak Flesh, led to over 30 arrests of workers in meat-producing plants, and more than 30 senior civil servants being suspended for failing to notice the sordid operations taking place.
China, Chile and the EU have called for some or all importation of Brazilian meat to be suspended temporarily.
But what impact does this have for Argentina?
Despite the reasonable concern — considering Argentina imports frozen pork, chicken and duck from our neighboring country — it is worth pointing out that not all of Brazil’s meat is implicated. Three meat-packing plants have been shut down and 21 are being investigated, but this specific group of meat processing plants make up a mere one percent of all the meat exported.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s Agricultural Industries Minister stressed that, “of the plants involved, only one exports meat to [Argentina].”
Nonetheless, it is useful to be aware of the risks of eating the contaminated meat, which include diarrhoea, vomiting and headaches.
CONICET scientist Gerardo Leotta told Infobae that it is advisable for consumers to be clued up about basic food hygiene practices, but to remember that meat products are still a valuable source of protein and part of a balanced diet.
As such the Panamerican Health Organization ave released a training manual aimed at people who work with food, containing hygiene advice for your perusal.
In fact, Argentina may well benefit from the scandal. Ever since the country became officially deemed free of mad cow and foot and mouth disease, Argentina has been making a name for itself in the meat markets again. Last year in fact, Argentina’s meat exportation rose by 10 percent. Increasing production and implementing a tight marketing strategy, Argentina could provide fierce competition in the meat markets.