May 22, 2019 / 5:20 PM / 3 months ago

Brazil bans labs from food inspections after BRF scandal

SAO PAULO, May 22 (Reuters) - Brazil's Ministry of Agriculture officially banned three laboratories from conducting food inspections over their involvement in a food safety testing scandal that ensnared meatpacker BRF SA, according to decisions published in the official government gazette on Wednesday.

The three laboratories run by Merieux NutriSciences Corp in Brazil, which performed testing on BRF products, are no longer authorized to process samples under the ministry's official control program, according to the decisions.

BRF and the Agriculture Ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Reuters reported in February that the three Merieux labs had lost their "ISO 17025" accreditation, which is essential to performing tests recognized by the ministry.

The loss of ISO accreditation was based on an ongoing investigation of alleged cheating by BRF and Merieux on food safety inspections, the federal agency responsible for the lab certification said at the time.

Merieux said in statement on Wednesday that it is in discussions with Inmetro, the federal certification agency, to restore the accreditations to perform food tests.

BRF suffered financial losses from the scandal, which briefly closed several markets to the world's largest poultry exporter. The company has said it was cooperating with authorities.

Earlier this year, Merieux denied involvement "in any organized fraud or corruption system with any of its customers in relation with the investigations."

The labs affected by the ministry's decision on Wednesday are based in two cities in the state of Paraná and another in São Paulo state, according to the official gazette.

The loss of accreditation is effective immediately. (Reporting by Ana Mano and Stefani Inouye; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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