14 April 2017 | Commodity transparency organization Trase (TRAnsparency for Sustainable Economies) was launched at 2016’s year-end climate talks in Marrakesh to help importers track the impact that their suppliers of soy and cattle products are having on deforestation, but that same data is now being used to track meat from the ‘Carne Fraca’ scandal, where 21 of the country’s thousands of beef, pork, and chicken processers stand accused of systematically bribing inspectors, altering expiration dates, and chemically treating spoiled meat to sell rancid products across the country.
After the scandal broke in March, scores of countries banned imports of beef, pork, and chicken from Brazil – often with blanket ban that punishes thousands of companies for the bad actions of a few. Now an investigation by Trase and Brazilian organization Imaflora is providing more precise tracking of tainted products.
The investigation shows that, while tainted products may have reached 60 different countries – including the United States, Canada, and several European nations – at least a dozen countries that issued bans were not exposed to suspect suppliers in 2016. These include Egypt, South Korea, Vietnam, and Panama.
“A blanket ban punishes a whole nation, or every company in a country, which can be very tough on producers and processors who are trying to do the right thing,” said Marina Piatto, Manager of the Climate and Agriculture Supply Chain Initiative at Imaflora. “Responses to the sort of misconduct exposed in Brazil should be robust, but should also be based on reliable information.”
At the same time, data compiled by the Forest Trends Supply Change initiative shows a potential for more transparency. The initiative tracks the activities of companies that have pledged to reduce their impact on forests, and 51 percent of those companies (227 out of 447) have exposure to Brazil. Diving in deeper, the data shows that 29 percent of all cattle-related commitments (or 16 of 55) explicitly focus on Brazil. 88 percent of companies with cattle commitments with exposure to Brazil (35 of 40) have pledged to traceability.
“Disclosure and transparency in supply chains is critical,” says Marco Albani, the Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020. “We need to know where stuff comes, we need to be able to connect supply chains to deforestation and we need to improve supply chains to actually drop deforestation.”
The investigation focuses on three Brazilian firms: Seara Alimentos, BRF, and Central de Carnes Paranaense, was shipped to 60 countries in 2016.
“These three firms were the only ones under investigation for tainted meat who also exported chicken, pork, or beef,” Trase and Imaflora said in a press release. “Trase researchers used Brazilian customs data to show that these companies shipped over $152.6 million worth of meat in 2016 to Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and China alone, and smaller amounts to countries such as the USA, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Singapore.”
“Thanks to previous, well-established trading patterns, it is possible to identify where tainted meat may have gone,” says Sarah Lake, Head of supply chains for the Global Canopy Programme, which launched Trase together with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).
“This is not just about Brazil but about the much wider issue of a need for transparency in supply chains broadly,” said Toby Gardner, Senior Research Fellow at SEI. “It will be hard for the world to reach its goals of a deforestation-free economy if we can’t see what is happening in the world’s supply chains.”