April 4, 2017 / 5:18 PM / a year ago

Brazil lifts export ban on three meat plants after scandal

SAO PAULO, April 4 (Reuters) - The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry has authorized three meat processors to resume exports after an audit concluded there were no irregularities at their facilities, according to a statement.

A total of 21 meat-packers was blacklisted after a federal investigation accused company executives and food inspectors of corruption, raising concerns over the quality of the meat sold in domestic and foreign markets.

Six of the plants targeted in the government’s audit suspended production, the statement said. After no irregularities were found in three, they were authorized to resume foreign sales.

The companies which benefited from the lifting of the ban were FrigoSantos, Breyer & Cia and Argus, the government said in a statement late on Monday.

However, 18 remain forbidden to export pending the end of the audit, the statement said.

On March 17, the federal police investigation of government sanitation inspectors prompted large importers such as China and Hong Kong to ban Brazil’s meat products temporarily.

Both countries have now resumed imports following assurances from Brazilian President Michel Temer’s government that there was no problem with the quality of meat and the investigation was focused solely on corruption.

The probe implicated small and large meat-packers including companies likes BRF SA and JBS SA. JBS and BRF both strongly denied any wrongdoing and insisted there is no problem with the quality of their products.

Brazilian fresh beef exports fell 2 percent in March from a year ago, according to Trade Ministry data, but the government said the drop was not due to the scandal. (Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by David Gregorio)

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