The government of the new president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, plans to present in the first half of 2019 a bill to establish self-monitoring systems for food processors, an initiative that would start with certain agricultural products and reach even the meat packers.

The bill is expected to include these types of systems in the meat-packing companies that are still recovering from the Operation Weak Flesh scandal, Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias said in an interview with Reuters.

Operation Weak Flesh is an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil that began in 2017 and uncovered an extensive bribery network in at least 19 Brazilian meat processing companies that adulterated or decomposed products, altered the expiration dates and even falsified documents.

The investigation, expanded last year, also involved two large meat and poultry processors in Brazil — BRF and JBS — and threatened to reduce the US$15 billion in Brazilian meat exports. Because of this, the European Union and China reduced shipments of meat and requested a revision in the health protocols, Reuters added.

“Why can’t Brazil do self-monitoring when Europe and the United States use it?” Dias rhetorically asked Reuters in reference to the widespread use of this type of systems in developed countries.

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The agriculture minister also defended Brazil's ability to establish self-monitoring systems for food processors. “Our agriculture sector can provide guarantees. Just because of one episode we shouldn’t demonize Brazil’s food industry,” she said.

Companies like JBS and BRF already have this type of self-monitoring systems in countries abroad where they have subsidiaries, Dias elaborated, without going into details of how the project would work in Brazil because “the matter is still under discussion with companies.”

Trade matters

In addition, Bolsonaro's government hasn't initiated negotiations with the European Union to lift its ban on Brazilian chicken imports because they are still developing public policies in this regard, Dias said. 

On the anti-dumping measures established by China against the Brazilian chicken, the minister said she would travel to the Asian country in the next two months for that discussion.

As for possible sanctions by Arab countries for Bolsonaro's statements to move the Brazilian embassy to Israel, Dias said they are looking for a “middle ground” to avoid the loss of markets, such as halal chicken.