US bans fresh Brazilian beef imports due to safety

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Brazil Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Imports of fresh beef from Brazil have been banned until further notice by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sonny Perdue, US Secretary of Agriculture, said there had been ‘recurring concerns’ about safety.

Suspension will remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes action which the USDA finds satisfactory.

Increased USDA checks

Countries stepped up scrutiny​ of Brazilian meat imports in response to a police investigation which uncovered a bribe payment scheme involving businesses and government inspectors who issued health certificates for food unsuitable for consumption earlier this year.

Companies involved included BRF, JBS, Peccin Agro Industrial Ltda​ , Frigorífico Rainha da Paz​ and JJZ Alimentos​.

In March, USDA-FSIS did not ban Brazilian imports but said it would check them all.

This included testing of beef trimmings for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and non-O157 shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC) and of ready-to-eat products for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

The US said none of the slaughter or processing facilities implicated shipped meat to the country.

Since March, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been inspecting all meat arriving from Brazil. FSIS has refused entry to 11% of Brazilian fresh beef products.  

That is substantially higher than the rejection rate of 1% of shipments from the rest of the world. 

Since increasing inspection, FSIS has refused entry to 106 lots (1.9 million pounds) of Brazilian beef due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues. None of the rejected lots made it into the market.

The Brazilian government said it will address the concerns including suspension of five facilities from shipping beef to the US. Minister Blairo Maggi is expected to meet government officials in the US.

Marfrig said it was confident that the Brazilian government will take all necessary measures to quickly resume Brazilian fresh beef exports to the US market.

The firm added it continues to supply the US market through its units in Uruguay.

The US market opened imports to Brazilian fresh beef towards the end of last year. From January to May, more than 11 thousand tons were exported or about US$49m.

Secretary Perdue said ensuring the safety of the food supply is one of its critical missions. 

“Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers. That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef.”

Global impact

It comes after the first shipment of fresh US beef arrived in Brazil following a 13-year hiatus in May.

The country closed its market to US fresh beef in 2003 over concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).  

The European Union suspended imports from the involved Brazilian establishments and deleted them from the list of sites from which imports into the EU are authorised.

All consignments from these sites arriving in the EU were destroyed or returned to Brazil.

Reinforced controls at the EU border inspection posts meant 100% of physical checks and 20% of microbiological (laboratory) checks.

Border rejections for Salmonella in chicken from Brazil have been reported by Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK in the last week, according to the RASFF portal.

FQN has contacted the Commission to find out the results of an audit in Brazil from 2 to 12 May.

In 2016 imports from Brazil of bovine animal meat was €449m and €163m for poultry with the EU importing 109,846 tons of bovine meat and 449,896 tons of poultry meat that year.

The main importers of bovine meat are the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain and for poultry it is the Netherlands, Spain, UK, Germany and France.

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