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Chinese Supermarkets Stop Selling Brazilian Meat After Food Safety Scandal


An employee works in a butcher shop in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 20, 2017.

Some of China's largest food suppliers have stopped selling Brazilian beef and poultry. The move comes following a scandal over Brazil’s meat processing industry.

Fears over Brazilian meat safety have grown since police accused inspectors of taking bribes to permit the sale of rotten and infected meats.

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef.

The announcement from the Chinese food suppliers comes days after China temporarily suspended Brazilian meat imports.

Sun Art Retail operates 400 Chinese hypermarkets. A spokeswoman for Sun Art said its stores removed Brazilian beef on Monday from two of the country’s top meat exporters. Brazilian beef makes up less than 10 percent of Sun Art's beef supply, she said.

Wal-Mart stores in China have also removed Brazilian meat products from its stores, the Reuters news agency reported. And Germany's Metro has withdrawn Brazilian chicken products from its Chinese stores, a manager said.

Hong Kong, Japan, Canada and Mexico have also announced they were stopping major imports of some Brazilian meat.

An economic embarrassment

President Michel Temer said the sale of rotten meat was an “economic embarrassment for the country.”

The Brazilian government has so far barred the exports of meats from 21 plants under investigation.

Brazilian officials on Tuesday tried to calm consumers. They said the recent investigation has found only isolated problems with rotten or infected meat.

However, the reaction by Chinese food suppliers suggests that the investigation could have a big effect on the world's top meat exporter.

Brazil's trade associations for meat producers warned that the scandal could affect employment and the economy. Meat exports make up 15 percent of total exports. Cattle-raising is also an important part of Brazil's culture.

Sensitive to scandal

China has had its own share of food safety scandals in recent years. Food suppliers want to avoid any possible risks.

Sun Art’s spokeswoman said it removed Brazilian beef from its shelves before the Chinese government formally commented on the issue.

Brazil is the top supplier of beef to China. Importers must now wait several days before they try to find different meat suppliers. The meat will likely be more expensive than Brazil’s.

Hong Kong was the second-biggest buyer of Brazilian meat last year. The Hong Kong supermarket chain PARKnSHOP said it had removed all Brazilian pork, beef and chicken from its stores’ shelves.

PARKnSHOP said in a statement, "To cater for the needs of customers, we will increase the supply of meat and poultry products from other countries.”

I’m Phil Dierking.

This story was originally written for Reuters by Dominique Patton. Phil Dierking adapted this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Do you know where the meat you eat comes from? Is it safe? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

scandal – n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong

bribe – n. something valuable, such as money, that is given in order to get someone to do something

consumer n. a person who buys goods and services

hypermarket - n. a very large store with a wide range of goods and a large parking lot, typically situated outside a town.

investigation – n. to try to find out the facts about something, such as a crime or an accident, in order to learn how it happened, who did it, etc.

plant - n. a building or factory where something is made​

rotten - adj. having rotted or decayed and no longer able to be used, eaten, etc. (rot - v. to slowly decay or cause something to decay) ​

supplier – n. a person or company that supplies goods or services

expensive - adj. costing a lot of money

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