US beef groups express concern over Brazilian produce

By Aidan Fortune contact

- Last updated on GMT

US beef groups express concern over Brazilian produce

Related tags: Us, Brazil, Beef, Processing and packaging Innovation

Two major beef producer groups in the US have spoken out against the re-introduction of Brazilian beef into the market.

Announced last month (February 2020), the suspension of Brazilian fresh beef exports to the US was lifted by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) after 20 months​. The product had been banned from the US over food safety and animal health concerns.

The USDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) carried out audits of Brazil’s inspection systems for beef slaughter and production, and found them to be satisfactory, thus allowing a resumption of imports from the country.

Brazilian backlash

This decision has prompted US beef production groups to express their concerns over safety of Brazilian beef.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) senior director of international trade and market access Kent Bacus said it would be monitoring produce entering the country.

“NCBA has frequently questioned the lack of scientific evidence that was used to justify Brazil’s initial access to the US market in 2016, and unfortunately, we were not surprised when Brazil forfeited its beef access to the US in 2017 due to numerous food safety violations. NCBA praised Secretary Perdue for standing up for science-based trade and holding Brazil accountable for their numerous violations by suspending Brazil’s access and subjecting Brazil to undergo a thorough science-based inspection and audit process. It is evident that USDA believes that Brazil has addressed the concerns raised in the audit process, and steps will soon be taken to restore Brazil’s access to the United States.

“Given Brazil’s history of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and its track record of repeated food safety violations at ports-of-entry, you can rest assured that NCBA will keep an eagle eye focus on all developments with Brazil and we expect nothing less than the highest level of scrutiny from USDA and customs officials. Should Brazil continue to have food safety or animal health issues, we expect the US government, including Capitol Hill, to take all necessary and immediate action to protect US consumers and US beef producers."

Bacus added that this development would further confuse product labelling.

“The re-entry of Brazilian beef to the US market only further exacerbates concerns about the use of ‘Product of USA’ labels on beef sold in the United States,”​ he said. “As the trusted leader and definitive voice of the US beef industry, NCBA will continue leading conversations with USDA and the entire supply chain to address any labels that may allow imported beef to carry a “Product of USA” label. NCBA believes voluntary origin labels with verified source claims will provide transparency in labeling without violating our international trade obligations.”

The United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) added its voice to the debate. President Brooke Miller said the group was “stunned” ​by the decision.

“USCA is stunned by the recent decision to risk the health of our domestic cattle herd and jeopardize the safety of consumers by allowing the importation of fresh beef from Brazil. We sounded the alarm on Brazil's appalling practices in 2017, after nearly 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef was rejected by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) due to 'public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues'.

"We remain concerned with the beef product Brazil exports to our country and reject the finding that the country's food safety and production standards are equivalent to the US beef and cattle industry.”

Senate concern

As well as producer groups, US senators from both parties have signed a letter sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue expressing their concerns. In the letter​, they asked about future monitoring of Brazilian production, the fact that eight out of 28 relevant sites in Brazil were audited by the FSIS and the potential for implementation of future audits.

Related topics: Meat

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