Nonprofit trade movement FairPlay has welcomed the food-safety-related prosecutions of 11 former employees of Brazilian poultry processor BRF SA.
BRF was under criminal investigation by Brazilian federal prosecutors for allegedly evading food safety checks, leading to the employees, including two former vice-presidents, being charged and prosecuted.
FairPlay says the issue is not new and that there have been complaints about Brazilian food safety procedures since the “weak flesh” scandal of 2017.
The organisation urged the South African authorities to take action, at the time, but the subsequent temporary import ban was eventually lifted and the chicken imports in South Africa resumed.
“While a number of countries had taken action against Brazilian chicken imports, Brazil remained the major source of chicken imported into South Africa. In 2018, South Africa imported a record 348 000 t of poultry from Brazil, and 205 000 t to September this year.
“Much of this could potentially have come from producers associated with BRF SA,” FairPlay notes.
It is calling on the South African government to impose a ban on all chicken imports from Brazil until those producers can demonstrate their meat is safe.
“Moreover, the practice of South African importers packaging together chicken portions from multiple countries of origin without traceability means we are incapable of identifying the unsafe Brazilian chicken in our stores,” the organisation says.
In a statement issued earlier this year, FairPlay had also called for the curbing of all chicken imports into South Africa to level the playing field in the domestic chicken market, stating that imports had contributed to job losses and a contraction in the industry.
FairPlay, at the time, stated that chicken was being dumped in South Africa at below production cost, with imports making up 30% of the local chicken market.