Reuters International

Members of the Public Health Surveillance Agency collect meats to analyse in their laboratory, at a supermarket in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

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By Dominique Patton

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Tuesday called on Brazil to take stricter safety measures in its food shipments, as Brazilian officials scrambled to limit the fallout from a corruption scandal that led Beijing to suspend meat imports from its top supplier.

China this week suspended imports of all Brazilian meat following a scandal in the South American country over the alleged bribery of health officials to allow the sale of tainted meat.

"China is concerned by the quality problems of some meat products in Brazil," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

"We hope that the Brazilian side will conduct a thorough investigation of the case...and take more stringent measures to ensure safe and reliable food exports to China."

She declined to comment on when the temporary ban on Brazilian meat imports might be lifted. That decision will be made by China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Senior Brazilian government officials spoke with AQSIQ's vice minister about the issue in a video conference on Tuesday, said a source briefed on the matter.

The meeting was the highest level discussion yet between the two nations, underscoring the urgency with which Brazil and China want to avoid further disruption in trade.

The source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the information, did not elaborate on the meeting.

AQSIQ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Brazil is the top supplier of beef to China, accounting for about 31 percent of its imports in the first half of last year. The second supplier, Australia, is still rebuilding its herd after drought and is not seen to be able to meet China's fast-growing demand.

The South American country also supplies more than 85 percent of China's poultry meat imports, according to the United States agriculture department.

Other major producers, such as the United States and some smaller European markets, are banned from supplying to China due to bird flu outbreaks.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Randy Fabi)

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