Korean discount retailers halt sales of chicken from Brazil

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Korean discount retailers halt sales of chicken from Brazil

The Korean government said Tuesday that Brazilian meatpackers accused of selling rotten and tainted chicken did not export to Korea, alleviating fears that the poultry was distributed in the country. Nonetheless, the top three discount chains in Korea - E-Mart, Homeplus and Lotte Mart - halted sales of Brazil’s chicken on Tuesday.

Homeplus and Lotte Mart stopped sales on Monday - the same day the Korean government temporarily banned the major Brazilian chicken exporter BRF and strengthened inspections. E-Mart removed the product from the market on Tuesday.

Homeplus and E-Mart confirmed that their Brazilian chickens were not imported from BRF. Lotte Mart said they do not know if BRF chicken was included on their product list, as the company’s contracted suppliers decide which imports to use for packaged chicken. “Nonetheless, we brought down every Brazilian chicken we had after hearing they could have a problem,” said a Lotte Mart spokesman.

The companies said they do not have plans to restart sales for now, as it’s too early considering the unease of consumers. “We are aware of the government announcement that said Brazilian chicken in Korea are safe, but still the company needs time to further revise the matter,” said a Homeplus spokesman.

Convenience stores also banned chicken from Brazil by stopping sales of products with the ingredient, as well as replacing Brazilian chicken for domestic or U.S. chicken in their in-house food products like dosirak, or boxed lunches. In Korea, Brazilian chicken was most used for boneless products such as nuggets.

A total of 89,000 tons of Brazilian chicken was imported to Korea last year, which accounts for 83 percent of imports. Among them, 42,500 tons, or almost half of imported Brazilian chicken was bought from BRF, the world’s largest poultry producer and a Brazilian food conglomerate accused of bribing inspectors to overlook practices such as shipping exports of meat with traces of salmonella.

Twenty-one meat processing companies in Brazil were caught on Friday having sold rotten chicken by processing them in toxic chemicals, to hide their odor. Some of these products were exported.

As a counteractive measure, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety temporarily halted sales in Korea on Monday and launched an investigation on Brazilian chicken.

A press release Tuesday said that the Brazilian companies involved in the scandal did not export poultry to Korea, according to a list of companies provided by the Korean Embassy in Brazil.

“BRF has many subcontracted suppliers that provide chicken to the company and only five among them imported to Korea, none of which were on the blacklist,” said an official at the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON, KIM YOUNG-NAM [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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