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    Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba

    Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba / 14ymedio,
    Zunilda Mata

    14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 21 March 2017 — Cubans know a lot about
    adulterations. For decades they have grappled with the “diversion of
    resources” [i.e. stealing] from state stores and the practice of state
    employees acquiring products elsewhere at low prices, bringing them into
    the stores and selling them at high prices and keeping the profit for
    themselves. Hence the scandal of the altered meat that involves two
    Brazilian companies has hardly surprised anyone on the Island.

    This Monday Brazilian meat products continued to be sold in Cuba’s
    retail network, where the frozen chicken of the brands Frangosul and
    Perdix, from the companies JBS and BRF respectively, continue to be on
    sale. According to an investigation by the Federal Police of Brazil,
    both these companies adulterated these products.

    In the case of chicken, the authorities have warned that it is more of
    an economic fraud, consisting of adding water to the product to increase
    the weight, without any risks to health.

    The results of what was called “Carne Fraca” (“weak meat” in
    Portuguese), confirmed the suspicions of those who warned that something
    “doesn’t smell right” in the world’s largest exporter of these products.
    Each year Brazil exports beef worth roughly 5.5 billion dollars and
    chicken worth roughly 6.5 billion. This business represents 7.2% of
    Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product.

    So far, no Cuban store or market has withdrawn the Brazilian frozen food
    products. On the digital sites that offer a wide range of foods that
    emigrants abroad can order for their families on the island, Brazilian
    beef and chicken remain on sale.

    The official media spread the news of the scandal, focusing on the
    possible repercussions for President Michel Temer’s government. The
    Ministry of Public Health did not discuss the issue when asked by 14ymedio.

    Cuba imports more than 80% of the food it consumes. For 2017, the bill
    for these purchases is expected to exceed $1.75 billion, $82 million
    more than the estimate for the previous year.

    Each year, more than 120,000 tonnes of chicken meat are bought in the
    international market, most of it hindquarters, also called “dark
    parts.” Alberto Ramírez, president of the Cuban Society of Poultry
    Producers (SOCPA), recently confirmed to the official press that
    “[domestic] meat production is practically zero.”

    In 2014, several representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture visited
    Brazil to inspect the facilities of the dairy and beef plant managed by
    JBS in Mato Grosso do Sul, with a view to importing its products to the
    Island. Another 25 facilities approved for trade with Cuba are located
    in the states of Tocantins, Rondonia, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul,
    Goiás, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo

    The United States and Brazil are the countries supplying the greatest
    amount of frozen products to the Cuban market. Faced with the lack of
    supply and the lack of variety, chicken has become one of the most
    common foods at the table of Cubans. Only the wealthy can afford beef.

    “I came to buy a piece of top round steak,” said a retired woman at the
    butcher’s in Plaza de Carlos III on Monday. She said, “it is a luxury
    that I can only allow myself from time to time.” The meat on offer in
    that market comes from Brazil, according to an employee who preferred
    anonymity, but who, so far, had received “no order to stop selling it.”

    On display in the meat case are several packages with prime ground beef,
    stew meat, top round and tip steak. No merchandise specifies where it
    comes from, but local workers confirm that it has been bought from
    Brazil. The customers look longingly at the display; meat remains a
    forbidden delicacy for many, even if it is wrapped up in
    investigations and fraud.

    “Here we work with Brazilian meat,” explains one of the waiters at the
    restaurant next to the Riviera cinema, formerly El Carmelo, on 23rd
    Street. In their menu they offer sirloin, fillet mignon, fried beef
    tender and ropa vieja (shredded beef in sauce), this last a very
    traditional dish that is in high demand among tourists.

    The select El Palco market, whose main customers are diplomats and
    foreigners living in Havana, is also “especially stocked with Brazilian
    meat,” points out one of the local cashiers.

    Some 27 people have been arrested in Brazil, and Federal Police
    Commissioner Mauricio Moscardi warned of a corruption network inside the
    government that allowed adulterated meat to be legalized. That chain of
    infractions involved officials of the Brazilian Democratic Movement
    Party, to which President Temer belongs.

    The main Brazilian meat producers added chemicals to meats that were
    “rotten” or unfit for human consumption. An extensive network of bribe
    payments purchased approval from the Ministry of Agriculture.

    “They used acids and other chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic, to
    disguise the physical characteristics of the rotten product and its
    smell,” Moscardi explained. They treated the meat with vitamin C to give
    it a more “appetizing” color, along with levels of preservatives well
    above those allowed by health authorities.

    Representatives of both companies have denied allegations by police
    authorities, but the alarm has spread in the international market and
    the companies’ stock prices have tumbled sharply.

    “BFR ensures the high quality and safety of its products and guarantees
    that there is no risk for its consumers,” said one of the largest food
    companies in the world with more than 30 brands in its portfolio, Sadia,
    Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, Bocatti or Confidence.

    The Chilean Ministry of Agriculture announced, a few hours ago, that it
    would accept no more imports from the Brazilian beef market. Minister
    Carlos Furche explained that the measure is temporary “until the
    Brazilian authorities know exactly what facilities are being
    investigated, and of those facilities which have exported to the world
    and Chile,” he said.

    The Chinese authorities have responded unceremoniously. The Government
    banned all such imports and prevented meat already shipped from being
    unloaded in its ports. Last year the Asian country imported 1.6 billion
    dollars from Brazilian meatpackers.

    Europe has slowed shipments from JBS and BRF. This week the European
    Commissioner for Health Affairs, Vytenis Andriukaitis, will travel to
    Brasilia and the agenda revolves around the food scandal.

    Cuban customers who are learning about the news coming from Brazil are
    beginning to connect the dots. “The chicken no longer came with the
    quality of before and had a lot of ice,” complains Luisa Cordoves, a
    housewife in Central Havana who says that “right now it’s better to buy
    the chicken boxes that come from United States, because the product
    tastes better. ”

    She believes that the scandal will not dissuade domestic consumers from
    acquiring these products. “People have many needs and there is no
    choice: you take it or leave it.”

    Source: Doubtful Meat From Brazil Continues To Be Sold In Cuba /
    14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba –