Salmonella steaks? Carcinogenic chemicals? Lying labels?
Brazil, the world's biggest beef and poultry exporter, has been hit by stomach-churning allegations of corrupt practices in its meat industry. Police have halted exports by 21 meat processors suspected of bribing inspectors to issue them bogus health certificates for rotten meat.
Here's what we know, and what we don't, about the scandal.
The drama erupted Friday, March 17, when police announced they had dismantled a network of corrupt health inspectors and meatpacking plants.
One of the most eye-popping allegations came in a press conference by police investigator Mauricio Moscardi Grillo, who said some meat processing plants had been using "carcinogenic products" to mask rotten meat.
Could Brazil’s rotten meat scandal be good news for Australian exporters? SBS World News, 6.30 tonight. pic.twitter.com/lKC4wUq1cQ— SBS News (@SBSNews) March 20, 2017
EU, China, and Chile halt Brazil meat exports #brazil pic.twitter.com/O4Hyu5x8aY — News World India (@NewsWorldIN) March 21, 2017
Investigators also found salmonella bacteria in products exported from one plant owned by the major multinational group BRF.
Police described a wire-tapped phone call in which a BRF executive confirmed that European health inspectors had found traces of salmonella, which can cause food poisoning, in four impounded containers of meat.
BRF said in a statement that it fully complied with regulations and that the type of salmonella found in the shipments was actually allowed under EU rules.
Another shocking allegation is that BRF mixed chicken with cardboard, as one employee appeared to say in another intercepted phone call.
But that claim is false, the government and the company now say.
"There is no form of cardboard in BRF products. There was a huge misunderstanding in the federal police's interpretation of the recording," the company said.
The employee "was talking about the product's packaging, not its contents," it added.
Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi himself called the allegation "insanity."
Government is taking a series of measures to reassure the quality and reliability of Brazilian meat. pic.twitter.com/5Z9uxjSDVi— Brazil Gov News (@BrazilGovNews) March 20, 2017
U.S. starts pathogen test of raw beef and ready-to-eat products from Brazil amid a massive meat adulteration scandal https://t.co/le6BJ4tEjc pic.twitter.com/8U5Cj0rQsD — China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 21, 2017