Citing Safety Concerns, US Halts Brazilian Beef Imports

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has suspended all imports of fresh beef from Brazil because of recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market. The ban will remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action which the USDA finds satisfactory.

Much of the Brazilian beef shipped to the United States is typically further processed at US facilities to make components for frozen food meals, ground meat for burgers and cold cuts.

USDA logoSince March, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been inspecting 100 percent of all meat products arriving in the United States from Brazil. FSIS has refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products. That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of one percent of shipments from the rest of the world.  Since implementation of the increased inspection, FSIS has refused entry to 106 lots (approximately 1.9 million pounds) of Brazilian beef products due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues.

The Brazilian government had pledged to address those concerns, including by self-suspending five facilities from shipping beef to the United States.  Perdue’s action to suspend all fresh beef shipments from Brazil supersedes the self-suspension.

“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply is one of our critical missions, and it’s one we undertake with great seriousness,” stated Perdue. “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.”

A number of other countries already banned Brazilian beef products several months ago, after Brazilian inspectors were allegedly bribed to cover up health violations and approve sub-standard meat for export.

carne 180317Concerning Operation Carne Fraca ("Weak Flesh") carried out by the Brazilian Federal Police on March 17, the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC - Associação Brasileira das Indústrias Exportadoras de Carne) declared that none of its 29 member companies' beef plants were named in the scandal involving meatpacking plants and Federal veterinary inspectors in the sale of adulterated foodstuffs.

ABIEC issued a statement assuring that its members “follow the strictest domestic and international rules and standards for beef, whether intended for the domestic market or for the more than 133 countries to which we export.”

The trade association representing producers from the world’s largest beef exporting nation emphasized that the cases made public in Operation Carne Fraca were “isolated incidents that do not represent Brazil's enormous beef production chain.” Furthermore, it vehemently repudiates the adoption of practices that undermine the quality of Brazilian beef or the credibility of Brazil's beef industry.

PRC Buys Frozen Brazilian Beef

Meanwhile, according to a quote attributed to Rabobank analyst Pan Chenjin in Reuters report, “China is not expected to follow the US move as it only permits imports of frozen Brazilian beef, which has different requirements to fresh meat. Brazil is also China's top beef supplier, and would be difficult to replace in the short-term.”

The United States began the resumption of fresh beef imports from Brazil in 2016 after banning them due to concerns about foot and mouth disease in cattle.