Dozens of Brazilian government officials suspended for exporting rotten meat products

Temer also said that "all the meat packing plants that produce for export are open to be inspected by exporting countries and can be visited by the national control system, which is one of the most respected in the world". According to investigations, 300 companies are committing irregularities including JBS, the largest exporter of beef in the world, and BRF, the largest exporter of processed poultry in the world.

Brazil is the world's largest red meat exporter. The investigation is focused on the actions of Brazilian Federal Meat Inspectors.

The proposed trade deal between Europe and Mercosur, the trading bloc which includes Brazil and Argentina, had been expected to include a more preferential tariff regime for beef imports from Mercosur countries.

Police said among those arrested were two JBS employees and three BRF employees.

The European Commission called on Brazil to immediately halt exports by the four companies implicated in the scandal.

The two firms are Brazilian food giant BRF, which owns the Sadia and Perdigao brands, and JBS, a global firm in meat sales and owner of the Big Frango, Seara Alimentos and Swift brands.

Authorities also discovered the use of "carcinogenic products to cover the physical appearance of the damaged product".

Brazilian President, Michel Temer, created a task force in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply which has already put the 21 slaughterhouses involved in the Federal Police's Carne Fraca operation under a "special inspection regime". He will later meet with the ambassadors of the largest meat markets.

JBS said: "The company vehemently repudiates any adoption of practices related to the adulteration of products".

The scandal "could be enough to compromise temporarily Brazilian protein's acceptance worldwide", Credit Suisse Securities analyst Victor Saragiotto wrote in a Monday note to clients.

Chile's Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche confirmed on Twitter that the Chilean Government was imposing a "temporary" ban on meat imports from Brazil. "Should I eat it or just throw it all away?"

  • Eleanor Harrison