Hong Kong suspects false health certificates used for Brazil meat

Packs of previously frozen Brazil chicken legs are seen stacked on a trolley shortly after a member of staff cleared them from the shelves of a supermarket in Hong Kong, on March 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (REUTERS) - Hong Kong authorities on Thursday (Sept 21) suspended meat imports from a Brazilian exporter and two producers on suspicions that health certificates had been falsified for 10 shipments of frozen chicken feet and livestock offal.

Some shipments should have only been intended as pet food, Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety said in a statement on its website.

The centre said it was stepping up verification checks of all health certificates for frozen meat and poultry exported from Brazil.

In March, Brazil's police announced a graft probe, known as "Operation Weak Flesh," and accused companies of bribing food inspectors to evade checks, leading many countries to temporarily ban imports from the country and increase oversight.

Hong Kong is a top destination for Brazilian meat and had temporarily suspended Brazil meat imports in the wake of the scandal. The Centre for Food Safety said that all 562 tests of Brazilian meat since March 21 have been satisfactory.

Brazilian meatpackers association ABPA said in a statement that it supported the investigation into falsified certificates, adding that the tests indicated it was an isolated case.

Brazil's agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of the 10 shipments suspected of having falsified papers, eight had been re-exported to the Chinese mainland or Vietnam and one is being held in a container terminal.

One shipment of 27 tonnes of frozen chicken feet had found a buyer, although authorities said that the product has not been found on sale in local markets.

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