Cattle grazing on a deforested land in Brazil. Photo: Rhett Butler

By Mike Gaworecki
5 April 2017

(Mongabay) – The month of March saw the world’s largest meatpacker, Brazilian company JBS, rocked by not one but two major scandals.

On March 17, agents with Brazil’s Federal Police raided facilities belonging to JBS and another food processing giant, BRF, as well as several smaller companies. The raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation, called “Operation Weak Flesh,” into an alleged scheme by which JBS, BRF, and others were bribing government officials to look the other way as they sold and exported rotten and salmonella-tainted beef, pork, and poultry.

According to The New York Times, 33 federal inspectors are being investigated for accepting bribes to ignore the adulteration and expiration of processed meats and falsifying sanitary permits. Exports from 21 meatpacking plants were suspended, as well. […]

JBS and BRF have both denied any wrongdoing.

Just four days after its plants were raided as part of the corruption probe, however, JBS found itself embroiled in another scandal. On March 21, as part of a three-year operation code-named “Cold Meat,” Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, raided two JBS meatpackers in the state of Pará that are accused of having purchased thousands of heads of cattle raised on illegally deforested land in the Amazon.

Ibama investigators said they determined that the two JBS plants had bought some 59,000 cows from ranching operations located on 507 square kilometers (about 196 square miles) of land that is under embargo due to illegal deforestation in the area. About 90 percent of the cattle raised on the land went to the JBS plants, Climate Home reported, while the rest went to 13 other, smaller meatpackers. […]

In response to the second scandal involving JBS uncovered in the course of one week, the environmental NGO Greenpeace said it was immediately suspending negotiations with the company. The group said in a statement that the purchase of cattle from illegally deforested areas is an environmental crime and the government’s allegations against JBS constitute a breach of a Plea Agreement (“Termo de Ajuste de Conduta” in Portuguese) reached in 2009 between Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry and 69 companies, including JBS.

JBS is also a signatory to the voluntary Cattle Agreement of 2009, Greenpeace noted, which means the company has committed to ensuring that its source farms are not involved in any deforestation, slave labor, or invasions of indigenous lands and protected areas. [more]

Rotten beef and illegal deforestation: Brazil’s largest meatpacker rocked by scandals

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