00:31, April 1, 2015

Marine Madatyan

Despite tests in 2013 showing excessive hormones in imported chicken,
government meat inspectors in Armenia appear to inadequately test
meat coming into the country.

In early 2013, Arm, the State Service for Food Safety (SSFS) of the
Ministry of Agriculture found that chickens sold under the Sadia
and Frangosul brand names contained several thousand times the legal
limit of the male hormone testosterone.

The chickens were exported to Armenia by the Brazilian companies BRF
S.A. (formerly BRF-Brasil Foods S.A.) and Doux Frangosul S.A. Agro
Avicola Industrial. When the meat was tested for bacteria, antibiotics
and hormones that February, the Armenian testing firm Standard Dialog
Ltd. found the massive amounts of testosterone.

Samples were taken from the Komitas Street branch of the Yerevan City
supermarket chain, which is owned by Aleks Grig Ltd. Aleks Grig is
closely connected to two members of the Armenian National Assembly.

Mher Gharibyan, the sole shareholder of Aleks Grig, is married to the
sister of Samvel Aleksanyan, a deputy in the assembly. Gharibyan is
also the father-in-law of another deputy, Koryun Nahapetyan.

According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission website,
BRF is the world's largest poultry exporter. It was formed in 2009
from an association agreement between Perdigao S.A. and its main
competitor, Sadia.

>From 2008 to 2012, Armenia imported Brazilian chicken both from Brazil
itself and via 10 other countries. According to figures compiled
by Armenia's State Revenue Committee, in 2012 most of the Brazilian
chicken (6,551 of 6,658 tons) came from Brazil; another 25 tons was
imported from Georgia and 26 tons from Holland; and the rest from
other countries.

Aleks Grig imports frozen poultry packed by BRF under the Perdigao
and Sadia brands, which are sold through the Yerevan City chain of
supermarkets. Tests revealed no problems with the Perdigao brand

After testosterone was found in the Sadia and Frangosul chicken,
reporters for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project
(OCCRP) sent several inquiries to Sadia and its parent company,
BRF, asking how the hormone wound up in the chickens and whether
future imports would be safe. Sadia did not respond; Frangosul was
not contacted.

What happened in the months after the testosterone discovery is

Armenia continued to import Brazilian chicken in both 2013 and 2014.

Hovhannes Mkrktchyan, who heads the SSFS livestock unit, says imported
meat must undergo two tests: bacterial tests, performed by the SSFS,
and hormonal tests, done by the testing company Standard Dialog.

Shipments of chicken arrived in 2013 on March 21, May 5, June 21
and Aug. 20. Despite the findings in February, the Standard Dialog
company tested this chicken for hormones--but not for testosterone.

Mkrktchyan says an SSFS inspector at the border decides what tests a
specific shipment should undergo. He said he could not say why these
four batches were not tested for testosterone.

In September, four more shipments of chicken arrived. Three were tested
for testosterone but none was found; the fourth was not tested for
hormones. Mkrktchyan again said the decision was made at the border
and he could not say why.

He did, however, explain that testing costs are paid by the importer,
and that the amount and extent of testing depends less on the
professional judgment of the border inspector and more on the amount
paid by the importer to the SSFS.

In 2014, tests were conducted on four shipments of Brazilian chicken,
which arrived on Jan. 21, Feb. 20, May 29 and Sept. 17. The January
shipment passed all tests. The February and May shipments were not
tested for testosterone. The September shipment contained low levels
of testosterone, safely below the legal limit.

According to Armenian law, if the documentation accompanying imports
fulfills domestic legal requirements, the produce is not subject to
laboratory inspection.

Aleks Grig did receive a certificate of safety from the Brazilian
Ministry of Agriculture in 2013, two months after the initial
testosterone was detected. The certificate, for 26 additional tons of
chicken, was signed by Rogeria de Carvalho, a senior expert with the
Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture who deals with food safety matters.

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From: Baghdasarian