“What steps has the Commission taken to prevent future attempts to bring contaminated meat into the EU which could pose a threat to food safety and consumer protection?” Teixeira asked the European Commission, which is expected to deliver a written answer in the next month.
The EU relaunched free trade agreement negotiations with the Mercosur trade block - which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia - in May 2010. Nine negotiations rounds have taken place ever since, but the conclusion of a free trade agreement seems to be still far.
Brussels will also need to tell Teixeira “what certification and safety procedures should be included in the future free trade agreement in order to monitor and prevent such incidents in the future”.
Frederic Vincent, spokesperson of the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Consumers, confirmed that Brussels was aware of the contaminated Brazilian shipments.
“It seems that the 2011 sprouts crisis increased awareness and probably surveillance,” Vincent told Globalmeatnews.com.
According to him, there has been an increase of E coli producing bacteria notifications under the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) on imported red meat starting mid-2011. While there were a few notifications per year before that year, in 2011 the number of notifications reached 15, to increase to 17 in 2012. In the first trimester of 2013 there have been already eight E coli notifications, said Vincent.
The EU does not have any clear criteria for limiting E coli-producing bacteria found in red meat, so member countries use the EU general food regulation 178/2002 which says unsafe food shall not be placed on the market, Vincent explained. This is the legal basis used by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority to stop the Brazilian beef meat entering the Dutch market, according to its spokesperson.
The value of Brazilian beef imports into the EU was estimated at EUR163 million in 2011 and EUR165 million in 2012.