Singapore doesn't import meat from 21 Brazilian facilities linked to scandal: AVA

Brazilian meat products at a FairPrice outlet. The supermarket chain, as well as others such as Sheng Siong, has said that its suppliers' brands and products have not been implicated in the Brazilian meat scandal.
Brazilian meat products at a FairPrice outlet. The supermarket chain, as well as others such as Sheng Siong, has said that its suppliers' brands and products have not been implicated in the Brazilian meat scandal.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Singapore does not import any meat from the 21 Brazilian meat-processing establishments that have been placed under "a special surveillance regime" there, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said yesterday.

"None of them is approved to export to Singapore," it said.

The scandal that broke last Friday involved several meat producers, including one of the world's largest, JBS SA. The industry was responsible for US$10.2 billion (S$14.25 billion) in exports of poultry and beef last year.

The AVA statement follows a two-year probe by police in Brazil that found that major meat producers had bribed health inspectors to certify tainted food as fit for consumption, and exported them worldwide.

Three of the establishments have been suspended, and so have 33 officials at the Agriculture Ministry under investigation.

 

The AVA said it has stepped up surveillance of imported meat and meat products from Brazil, and is "monitoring the situation closely", while liaising with the Brazilian authorities for more details.

  • MEAT IMPORTS FROM BRAZIL IN 2016 

    95,900

    Tonnes of chicken 

    35,300

    Tonnes of pork 

    15,200 

    Tonnes of beef

    SOURCE: AVA

It is also working with meat importers to monitor the situation and to be prepared to ramp up alternative sources, if necessary.

In a statement to The Straits Times, Brazil's Ambassador to Singapore Flavio Soares Damico said: "The Brazilian companies are required to be open to receiving auditing missions from other countries.

"As a matter of fact, teams from Singapore's AVA and from the European Union are currently in Brazil on previously scheduled inspection missions.

"In order to assess the reliability of Brazilian exports, it is worth noting that out of 853,000 shipments of meat and meat products sent abroad in 2016, only 184 were rejected (0.02 per cent), the majority of which were due to bureaucratic issues."

He said separately in a phone interview that 21 of Brazil's 4,837 slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants were implicated, and "none of those facilities has exported to Singapore".

According to the AVA's website, Brazil is allowed to export beef, pork and poultry to Singapore - from approved establishments.

The AVA said in its statement that meat and meat products can be imported into Singapore only from AVA-accredited sources.

The accreditation process involves two levels of checks. The first assesses the "robustness" of an exporting country's national animal health and food safety system, as well as the authorities' powers to enforce requirements. This includes minimising microbial contamination and chemical residues, said the AVA. If the country is approved, each meat establishment will then be individually evaluated to ensure it meets AVA's food safety requirements before the processed meat can be exported to Singapore.

Upon arrival, "every meat consignment is physically checked for spoilage". The health certification is also verified at the point of import, said the AVA.

Samples are taken for laboratory testing as well, for food safety hazards such as chemical residues, antibiotics and microbial pathogens, as well as authenticity to deter fraud. "Products that fail our tests will not be allowed to be sold," said the AVA.

To date, there have not been any significant instances of non- compliance in meat shipments from Brazil, it added.

Supermarket chains including FairPrice and Sheng Siong, when contacted by The Straits Times, confirmed their suppliers' brands and products have not been implicated in the scandal.

A spokesman for Dairy Farm, which runs Giant and Cold Storage, said: "We will work closely with all stakeholders to monitor the situation and to continue with our practice of diversified sourcing."

Meat Traders' Association mentor Chung Suan Lim noted that the AVA approves only certain processing plants within the affected companies.

About 150 countries buy meat from Brazil, with principal markets as widespread as Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Russia, the Netherlands and Italy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore doesn't import meat from 21 Brazilian facilities linked to scandal: AVA'. Print Edition | Subscribe