Marfrig was fined for the emission of gases that are harmful to human health in the accident on January 31, Ednilson Paulino Queiroz, a Mato Grosso do Sul state environment agent said. The Campo Grande state police are investigating the deaths.
The accident occurred at a tannery that is part of an industrial complex in Bataguassu, 340 kilometers (211 miles) from Campo Grande, the state capital. Five of the 16 poisoned survivors are in serious condition and have been admitted to the hospital in Bataguassu, paramedics said.
A specialised group of firefighters cordoned off the tannery and sprayed water over it to form a mist with the aim of preventing the spread of the toxic substance, identified as dichloro-proprionic acid.
A spokesman for Marfrig confirmed that the escape of the chemical had been controlled and that it did not affect the adjacent meat-processing plant.
The company is investigating the cause of the accident, but it is believed to have started when a chemical reaction occurred during the handling of substances used in the treatment of leather. The plant has been shut while the cause of the accident is investigated, Marfrig said. Marfrig declined to comment on the fine.
The meatpacker/tanner led by Chief Executive Officer Marcos Antonio Molina is a leather supplier to automakers VW and GM and has the capacity to produce about 14,000 pieces of finished leather a day.
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