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The sell-off in the Brazilian meatpacking sector continued apace on Monday as the country scrambles to limit the damage to trade following allegations that its biggest beef and poultry producers might have been selling tainted meat worldwide.

São Paulo-based JBS, the world’s biggest protein company, tumbled as much as 10 per cent to R$9.64 in early trading in Brazil, extending the 10.6 per cent drop it suffered on Friday.

BRF, the world’s largest poultry exporter, fell as much as 11.8 per cent to hit a four-and-half year low of R$32.72 while smaller rivals Minerva and Marfrig Global Foods were down 13 per cent and 5.9 per cent apiece.

The sector was rocked on Friday after Brazilian authorities announced that they are investigating evidence that industry members had bribed government officials to approve the sale and export of contaminated meat.

China has reportedly placed a temporary ban on Brazilian meat imports on news of the probe, while the European Union said on Monday that it was suspending imports from the four companies targeted in the investigation.

Any ban would have serious consequences for Brazil’s meat industry, which has grown over the past decade to become the world’s largest.

Since Friday, JBS has shed R$6bn ($1.94bn) of its market value, while BRF has lost some R$5.8bn.

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