The third phase of the Weak Flesh Operation involved 270 federal police and 21 federal agricultural tax auditors, who performed 91 court orders across the country. They issued 11 temporary arrest warrants over the course of the day, as part of what the authorities are now calling Operation Trappa.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply, four BRF industrial plants are under investigation, two of which are chicken, one in Rio Verde, another in Carambei, and one in Mineiros (GO), as well as a feed mill in Chapecó (SC).
The investigation is also targeting laboratories that allegedly covered up the presence of salmonella in products from BRF.
The joint investigation found falsification of the results of the examinations of private laboratories, accredited by the ministry, omitting the existence of salmonella in some samples.
Five laboratories are involved in the irregularities pointed out by the investigation. Three of these are accredited by the ministry and two are privately-run companies. These five can no longer conduct analyses until the end of the investigations. According to the Brazilian Federal Police, investigators “identified that the practice of fraud counted on the approval of executives of the business group, as well as its staff, as well as professionals responsible for quality control of the company’s own products”.
Exports by the refrigerators involved were also suspended to 12 destinations, where specific sanitary requirements for control and typing of salmonella are required: South Africa, Algeria, South Korea, Israel, Iran, Macedonia, Mauritius, Tajikistan, Switzerland, Ukraine, Vietnam and the European Union.
In a statement, agriculture, livestock and food supply minister Blairo Maggi attempted to reassure the public. “The Ministry of Agriculture has been working with the Federal Police and the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, and I can assure the Brazilian population that there is no risk of consuming poultry meat produced by any of the companies mentioned.”
BRF said that it was “collecting further details referred to in the operation” and was “cooperating to elucidate the facts”.
“The company fully complies with Brazilian and international norms and regulations concerning the production and commercialisation of its products and, for more than 80 years, BRF has demonstrated its commitments to quality and food safety, which are present in all of its operations in Brazil and abroad.
“The company reiterates that it fully remains at the disposal of authorities, keeping its promise of full transparency in the communications with its clients, consumers, shareholders and the market in general.”
In March 2017, the Brazilian authorities launched the investigation into the domestic meat industry. The initial investigation involved more than 1,000 officers, with allegations of bribery of politicians and health inspectors.