News


Whistleblower in Brazil meat scandal takes on powerful industry

By Stephen Eisenhammer | CURITIBA, BRAZIL

REUTERS • FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017 

When government health inspector Daniel Gouveia Teixeira confronted a Brazilian processed meat plant with what he says was evidence of excess use of marrow, bone and other slaughterhouse by-products in food for human consumption, he was suddenly removed as the plant's inspector.

The incident, nearly three years ago at the Peccin Agro Industrial Ltda plant in Brazil's rural Parana state, led Teixeira to tell police he suspected he was being undermined by corrupt superiors. It also prompted friends to start calling him "crazy" for taking on one of the country's most powerful industries.

"Being honest and doing my job makes me crazy?" he asked in an interview this week. "That's crazy!"

Teixeira, 39, is the agriculture ministry whistleblower credited by Brazil's Federal Police with triggering an investigation into alleged bribes paid by meat companies to government food-sanitation inspectors in the world's top exporter of beef and poultry.

Police say in court documents the bribes were paid to cover up serious health violations by some companies in the meat industry, including the sale of rotten and salmonella-contaminated products. Their probe, dubbed "Operation Weak Flesh," has caused some of Brazil's biggest export markets to ban its meats.

Police have accused more than 100 people, mostly inspectors, of taking bribes for allowing the sale of rancid products, falsifying export documents or failing to inspect meatpacking plants at all.

Prosecutors have yet to present charges and the police allegations have not been proven.

BRF SA (BRFS3.SA) and JBS (JBSS3.SA), two of the world's biggest food companies, are among dozens of firms targeted in the investigation. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

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