US beef association calls Brazilian food safety into question

By Georgi Gyton

- Last updated on GMT

Issues flagged up in final audit report
Issues flagged up in final audit report

Related tags: Hazard analysis and critical control points, Beef

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in the US has highlighted what it calls "significant flaws" in Brazil’s meat inspection systems.

It comes after the association reviewed a final audit report by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), following the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s proposed rule to allow the importation of fresh and frozen beef from 14 states in Brazil.

The report was designed to determine whether Brazil’s meat inspection systems meet US requirements, whereby all countries that import products to the US must meet or exceed the FSIS’ domestic requirements prior to approval.

Dr Kathy Simmons, chief veterinarian at the NCBA, said the report confirmed many of the compliance concerns it had recently expressed in comments it made on behalf of its members.

"Our members have significant concerns over Brazil’s ability and willingness to meet established compliance requirements. Most alarming to me is the inconsistent application and implementation of Specified Risk Material (SRM) requirements throughout the system and a history of unresolved drug residue violations."

It added that Brazil’s inspection system did not fully enforce Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems plans and records in five audited establishments, and that its inspection personnel did not fully enforce sanitation requirements to prevent cross-contamination of bovine carcases in one establishment.

The report stated that "until Brazil has satisfactorily addressed these issues, FSIS will not certify any new establishments as eligible to export to the United States",​ said the NCBA.

However, the NCBA has argued that the report was not released in enough time to allow for a full review, prior to the deadline for comments on the proposals of 22 April 2014. The audit took place between 18 February and 14 March, but the report was dated 16 April 2014.

Bob McCan, NCBA president and Texas cattleman, said: "In early March, NCBA formally requested, through a Freedom of Information Act request, all pertinent documents, including a final 2013 FSIS audit report for Brazil.

"This report was available prior to the comment deadline, but the failure by FSIS to provide it, shows a complete lack of preparation of the documents the US cattle industry would need in order to make informed and meaningful comments."

The audit focused on six main system components: government oversight, statutory authority and food safety regulations, sanitation, HACCP systems, chemical residue control programs and microbiological testing programs.

Related topics: Meat

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