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News > Latin America

Brazil Probes Plan to Give Poor People ‘Human Pet Food’

  • A sign reads

    A sign reads "Food Pellets are not meal" next to organic food and a child during a protest against Sao Paulo Mayor Doria's plans to serve school meals made of reprocessed food pellets in Sao Paulo, Brazil. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 October 2017

Sao Paulo's conservative mayor has proposed distributing pellets made of nearly-expired foods to the poor, mainly kids.

Brazilian prosecutors are probing a plan proposed by right-wing Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria that would introduce a powder pellet, dubbed “human pet food,” in an attempt to decrease hunger and malnutrition, The Guardian reported.

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Prosecutors claim the product hasn't been adequately examined.

The pellets, made of nearly-expired foods from local restaurants, are intended to be distributed to the poor, mainly kids. They would be served to children at low-income schools around the city as a complement to their meals starting in late October. Brazil’s Ministry of Education has already approved the pellets. 

The plan has sparked controversy in a city where at least 1.5 million people don’t have enough food to eat on a daily basis. There’s confusion around the pellets' nutritional value, safety and chemical composition.

Vivian Zollar, a member of the Regional Council of Nutritionists for Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais state, said the council was not given enough time nor access to confirm that the pellets had undergone the legal, safety and nutritional tests required for school meals.

"When we offer pellets to lower income people to eat, we are only exacerbating the inequality in society," Zollar told The Guardian.

Marly Cardoso, a professor of public health and nutrition at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, echoed Zollar's concerns. 

“It is not food, it is an ultra-processed product," she said.

"You don’t know what is it.”  

Doria, who called the pellet “solidarity food,” is a multimillionaire businessman who rose to fame hosting Brazil’s version of "The Apprentice." He’s a close ally of right-wing Brazilian President Michel Temer.

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In a city-wide austerity measure last year, Doria shot down a city council plan to “improve the city’s diet” by providing small-scale farmers space to sell fruit and vegetables on the street and creating city-wide price controls on fruits and vegetables. Instead, the mayor wants to give tax breaks to companies that donate food.

Critics of Doria's plan say the mayor’s scheme is completely contrary to nationwide food security plans and longstanding nutritional practices.

The pellets are produced by Synergy Platform, a Catholic organization that claims the product has the “blessing” of  Pope Francis, The Guardian reported. The company did not reply to questions from the publication about the product’s nutritional composition.

On Thursday, families and children protested the possible introduction of the pellets into schools. 

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