BRASILIA, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Brazilian meatpackers paid state inspectors bribes to overlook the sale of meats past their expiration date, the Federal Police (PF) said on Friday.
A wide-ranging investigation, dubbed Operation Weak Flesh, is looking into the systematic bribery of inspectors from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, PF Commissar Mauricio Moscardi Grillo told reporters at a press conference.
Some of the country's biggest meatpackers are being investigated, Agencia Brasil (EBC) said.
Shares for those companies involved in the bribery plummeted on news of the investigation, dragging down the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange with them.
As part of the operation, 309 arrest warrants were issued in seven states, for search and seizure of company premises and the homes of suspects, and for questioning those involved, the agency said.
According to Moscardi, at least some of the bribes went to the treasuries of key political parties.
"As part of the investigation, it became clear that part of the bribes went to political parties ... throughout the investigation two parties were named: the PP (Popular Party) and the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party)," which is the party of President Michel Temer.
The companies, which sold meat for both domestic consumption and export, treat meats with chemicals to mask any stale odors, and inject meats with water to boost poundage.
Following the PF's press conference, the Agriculture Ministry said it suspended 33 inspectors linked to the scheme.