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Chile's largest meat producer caught selling rotten goods

Wednesday, January 10th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Agrosuper, Chile's largest meat producer could face serious fines or a shutdown of its factories by health authorities after workers of its Huechuraba plant denounced the sale of decomposing meat.

Interior minister Belisario Velasco informed Chilean newspaper "La Nación" that an investigation "to remove the spoiled products from the market and take the corresponding measures" is already underway. The company lost one of its plants to fire last November and the holding faces a host of stiff fines for alleged environmental and labor misdeeds. Whistle-blowing workers alleged that the company rids itself of out-of-date stock by selling it at reduced prices. Prices vary depending on the state of decomposition of the meat. Labor leader Javier Chandía alleged this practice extends to all 16 of Agrosuper's branches. Agrosuper officials denied the charges, saying "all out-of-date merchandise is returned and stocked separately from saleable products." While the "cleansing" of products through chlorine submersions is no longer practiced in the company, distributors agree that small vendors and market stalls still use this procedure to sell older stock â€" purchased from Agrosuper. Agrosuper responded to the charges by transferring workers believed to have participated in the whistle-blowing. Huechuraba labor leader Luis Silva said union members are also accused by the company of divulging confidential information. Silva vowed legal action against the company. The Agrosuper holding includes the brands Super Pollo, Super Cerdo, Cecinas Super, Cecinas La Crianza, almost half of the stock for rival company Sopraval, as well as salmon fisheries and even a vineyard. The company's meaty profit margin exceeds the billion dollar mark and is only rivalled by its capacity to accrue lawsuits and environmental charges. Although Agrosuper has been sued for various infractions of Chile's environmental laws, it was recognized by government authorities in 2004 for its accomplishments in environmental and social responsibility. Agrosuper was the first company in Chile to trade CO2 bonds. Agrosuper's chicken farms near San Pedro reportedly pollute two rivers, leading to the destruction of the UN protected natural wetlands of El Yali. Five of its plants were fined in 2005 and 2006 for various health violations and for polluting neighbouring areas. Environmental fines are estimated at half a million US dollars. Labour law breaches amount to over 150,000 US dollars and include the following charges: unpaid overtime, unpaid wages, illegal extension of working hours, separation of unionized workers, illegal unilateral deduction on wages, prevention of official inspection of plants, failure to comply with court hearings and negating workers one Sunday off every month. In spite of large corporate expenditures on environmentally related matters, reports La Nacion, their policies seem reactive at best. The company apparently believes it is less expensive to pay the fines rather than clean up their mess. The Santiago Times - News about Chile

Categories: Economy, Latin America.

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