The Guardian and Repórter Brasil published the explosive story on Tuesday 6 June. It was the latest in a series of negative stories for JBS, after the $3bn corruption fine levelled at its holding company, the exit of a former company executive and a national tainted meat scandal.
In 2016, the business ceased buying cattle from the Ana Paula Junqueira family’s farm in the northern Brazilian state of Pará on discovering its alleged links to modern-day slavery, a company spokesperson told this site. JBS had only bought cattle from there in the first place because it was not on a government blacklist of farms the Brazilian Ministry of Labour has linked to modern-day slavery.
Farm not named in government blacklist
“JBS does not buy cattle from any farms on the Brazilian Ministry of Labour’s slave labour blacklist,” the company said.
“The farm named in the [Guardian] article has never been included on the blacklist. As the story correctly says, as soon as JBS became aware of irregularities in the farm’s operations in 2016, all livestock purchases from the Ana Paula Junqueira family were stopped immediately.
“JBS updates information about embargoed areas published by the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA) and information on the Ministry of Labour’s blacklist on a daily basis.”
One of the top grocery retailers in the UK, Waitrose, has now pulled JBS-made corned beef off its shelves after the alleged link to modern-day slavery became known. Our sister site Meat Trades Journal has reported that major British supermarkets were also concerned by the allegation.
Disaster strikes thrice
JBS will be hoping to be out of the woods soon after a series of reputationally damaging incidents.
First was the rotten meat scandal of March when more than 1,000 police officers raided Brazilian meat factories across the country on suspicion government health inspectors were bribed to ignore food safety issues.
JBS has denied any wrongdoing, despite one of its staff facing investigation for links to federal food safety inspectors.
Second came claims senior JBS executives, principally the billionaire Joesley Batista, bribed high-ranking officials in the Brazilian government. A leaked tape recording allegedly captured a conversation between Joesley Batista and Brazil President Michel Temer, in which the latter allegedly appears to condone the bribing of former politician Eduardo Cunha.
This tape has plunged Brazil into political and economic turmoil, with Temer facing a Supreme Court investigation.
J&F Investimentos, the holding company of JBS owned by the Batista family, has been fined a record R$10.3bn ($3.1bn) as part of a leniency agreement into corruption allegations. This fine will be paid over 25 years by the Batista brothers; JBS assets will not be sold to fund the fine.
Joesley Batista has now resigned from JBS. Ex-Procter & Gamble chief Tarek Farahat replaced him as chairman of the board tasked with regaining the trust of banks, politicians and consumers.