Recall in Brazil meat scandal amounts to sale ban, Hong Kong traders say
Retailers want the government to inspect batches individually, but officials face other difficulties with nature of Brazilian probe
Traders affected by the meat scandal in Brazil called for a comprehensive inspection system on Saturday, saying the government’s decision to recall the products from 21 companies in the country amounted to a sale ban on all their existing stock.
While officials are in talks with the sector about compensation issues, the Frozen Meat and Sea Food Wholesalers Retailers Association said payouts were not the best solution.
It said not all meat products from Brazil were tainted and the government should inspect the items individually.
The Centre for Food Safety said on Friday it would immediately recall all meat from 21 Brazilian companies involved in the probe. Six of them were already identified by local health officials as suppliers of tainted meat.
A spokeswoman for the centre said on Saturday that anyone who sold the recalled meat could face a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$50,000.
Cheng Hing, a former secretary general of the association, said: “Currently, products that had entered Hong Kong before the ban also cannot be sold. We are required to notify the government where they are stored.
“Now some of our products are sealed in a terminal until further notice from the government. As an importer, it’s a huge loss.”
Cheng said he hoped the government could inspect the products individually, and batches that passed the test should be allowed for sale.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said on a Commercial Radio programme on Saturday that Hong Kong had more than 1,000 Brazilian meat suppliers and it would be hard for local health officials to verify the involvement of each.
Ko said the nature of the Brazilian government’s probe into the tainted meat scandal made it difficult for local officials to locate and identify batches that should be pulled from sale.
“Brazilian authorities have been investigating the incident for two years, but they’re focusing on whether officials have been bribed and possible misconduct, rather than looking at it from a food safety perspective,” Ko said.
The import ban would be maintained until Brazilian authorities narrowed the scope of their investigation, Ko added.
Ko also said that not many meat retailers in Hong Kong had digitalised their product records, which further created an obstacle for officials involved in tracking down suppliers.