Imports of fresh beef from Brazil are being halted into the U.S. The announcement was made by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue after inspections by USDA-Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) revealed concerns over safety issues.
"Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply is one of our critical missions, and it’s one we undertake with great seriousness," Perdue says.
Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture self-suspended the shipment of beef from five packing plants after U.S. officials found "irregularities" in the processed carcasses this past week. However, the move by Perdue and USDA will supersede the self-suspension.
A statement from the Brazilian Association of Beef Industry Exports says the self-suspension happened "after the detection of [bovine] reactions to the vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease, that in some cases can provoke internal, and not externally visible abscesses."
The voluntary halt by Brazil appeared to be temporary while the vaccine manufacture attempted to find a solution for the abscesses. Now it could be much longer before fresh Brazilian beef enters the U.S.
"Once again the industry is inheriting a problem that it has not created," says Antonio Camardelli, president of the board of the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporters.
The Ministry of Agriculture was alerted by USDA-FSIS on June 16 and exports were stopped immediately from those plants impacted. State locations and ownership of the packing facilities include:
- Mato Grosso do Sul
- Sao Paulo
- Mato Grosso
- Rio Grande do Sul
The U.S. just began exporting fresh beef from Brazil last year after a trade agreement was reached on Aug. 1. Prior to this trade deal, Brazil had not had access into the U.S. since 2003 because of foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks. Similarly, U.S. beef had not been in Brazil since 2003 when bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found.
"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," Perdue says. "That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef. I commend the work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for painstakingly safeguarding the food we serve our families."
There were 31 packing plants in Brazil approved to export into the U.S. prior to this suspension.
Brazil’s meat packing industry has seen a number of setbacks in the past few months after the discovery of a widespread bribery scandal. Aftershocks from the corruption scandal have included:
- The stoppage of exports into a number of countries
- JBS owners stepping down from the board
- The selloff of several other JBS packing plants in South America
- More selloffs of different JBS businesses like Five Rivers Cattle Feeding in the U.S.
In March, USDA FSIS began inspecting all meat product coming from Brazil. During that time FSIS has rejected 11% of Brazilian fresh beef imports. It adds up to 1.9 million pounds of beef from 106 lots that were rejected because of public health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is in support of the decision to suspend fresh beef imports from Brazil.
"This action is the result of USDA’s strong, science-based testing protocol of imported beef and this proves that our food safety system works effectively. NCBA supports USDA’s commitment to science-based trade and its commitment to keeping our food supply as safe as possible," says Craig Uden, NCBA president.
There is no timeline for when Brazil will be eligible to again export beef to the U.S. market.