Brazil investigators look at meals made of processed pellets

FILE - This May 23, 2014 file photo shows a mural by Brazilian street artist Paulo Ito, of a crying child who is served a soccer ball to appease his hunger, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Prosecutors in Brazil's largest city opened an inquiry Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, into the mayor's plans to offer school meals with pellets made of reprocessed food items. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2016 file photo, Joao Doria, mayoral candidate with the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, greets supporters during a campaign rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mayor Doria said on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, that the city will feed school kids with pellets made of a mix of unwanted and nearly expired items. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

SAO PAULO — Prosecutors in Brazil's largest city opened an inquiry Thursday into the mayor's plan to offer school meals with pellets made of reprocessed food.

The investigation comes amid a growing outcry over the pellets, which Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Doria says will help fight hunger.

The pellets are made of dehydrated leftovers and resemble popcorn. Some are mixed into other foods, like cakes, while others can be eaten directly. Doria did not specify which kind would go to schools.

Prosecutor Jose Carlos Bonilha told The Associated Press that officials had requested data and tests on the pellets to determine their nutritional value.

"It is not an accusation, but it is a procedure we need to do so we can understand what these pellets are," Bonilha said. "We need forensics to tell us whether this actually has nutritious value or not. If we see that is not the case, we will open a suit."

The company that makes the pellets, Plataforma Sinergia, says they are as nutritious as food in nature.

Brazil made great strides at reducing extreme poverty this century, but it is in a severe economic slump that is affecting millions of families.

Sao Paulo officials do not have data on people living in extreme poverty, so it's unclear how many children Brazil's richest city expects to benefit from the pellets. The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization says in a report based on data from 2015 that less than 5 percent of Brazil's population was undernourished.

Human rights groups have criticized the pellets, calling them degrading. Sao Paulo's nutrition council also has criticized the plan.

On Wednesday, Sao Paulo's city council also requested information on the pellets.

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