Brazil Meat Plant Inspectors Protest Amid Minister's U.S. Meeting

Brazil's federal food inspectors started a 24-hour protest on Monday, slowing inspection of meatpacking companies just as the country's agriculture minister was sitting down with his U.S. peer to discuss concerns about safety checks of fresh beef.

Inspectors union Anffa Sindical said in a statement it recommended that members refrain from accessing the Agriculture Ministry's databases linked to foreign trade activities, in a move that would slow on-site checks and export oversight.

The move comes as Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi visits the United States, seeking to lift a ban on imports of Brazil's fresh beef after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested a "system-wide problem" with Brazilian inspections.

Brazil's Anffa union on Monday decried what it called a shortage of inspectors, demanding that the government hire 1,600 more. They also protested the temporary hiring of veterinarians to handle emergency meat inspections.

The Agriculture Ministry declined to comment.

Industry groups ABPA and Abiec, which represent Brazilian chicken and beef exporters, did not have an immediate comment. Brazil's powerful protein industry exports about $14.5 billion annually.

If inspectors' demands are not met, the union said the protest will be repeated next week for a 48-hour period starting on July 24.