Saudi Arabia halts Brazilian beef and poultry imports over food safety fears

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has stopped beef and poultry imports from four Brazilian companies over concerns about food safety after accusations that individuals had been bribed to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats.

Following a two-year investigation of Brazil's meatpacking industry, police have accused more than 100 people, mostly health inspectors, of taking bribes for allowing the sale of rancid products, falsifying export documents or failing to inspect meatpacking plants.

"This measure was taken in the interest of citizens' and residents' safety," a statement from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, carried by Saudi Arabia's official news agency SPA late on Wednesday, said of the halt to imports.

It listed the affected companies as JJZ Alimentos SA, Frango Dm Industria e Comercio de Alimentos Ltda, Seara Alimentos, a subsidiary of JBS, the world's biggest meatpacking company, and BRF SA, the world's biggest poultry exporter.

The companies have denied any wrongdoing and authorities have said that no cases of death or illness have been linked to the tainted meat investigation.

Brazilian beef exports to Saudi Arabia in the first 10 months of 2016 totaled almost 24,000 tonnes, according to a study by Meat and Livestock Australia, a research service.

(Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by David Goodman)

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