Trade

US cattlemen rally against return of Brazilian meat imports

Beef Central, February 24, 2020

CATTLE producer representatives in the US are resisting moves to allow Brazilian beef to again re-enter the US market.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Friday lifted its suspension of fresh beef imports from Brazil after completing an audit of Brazil’s inspection system for beef slaughter and further processing. The approval applied on Brazilian cattle slaughtered after 21 February, but will still require individual USDA plant certifications in Brazil for trade to commence.

After being shut out of the US market since 2003 over FMD concerns, Brazil was briefly granted provisional access back in 2016, only for US authorities to suspend access even before individual plant approvals were granted, over food safety concerns linked to Brazil’s 2017 ‘Weak Meat’ scandal, centred on bribery of food safety inspectors (click here to view earlier article on Brazil’s meat crisis).

“National Cattlemen’s Beef Association strongly supported science-based trade and the Trump Administration’s efforts to enforce science-based trade with all trade partners,” NCBA senior director, International Trade and Market Access, Kent Bacus said in a statement.

“But to be clear, we have serious concerns about the re-entry of Brazilian beef to the US market.”

“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 USDA Secretary Perdue for standing up for science-based trade and holding Brazil accountable for its 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,” Mr Bacus said.

“Given Brazil’s history of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and its track record of repeated food safety violations at ports-of-entry, 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,” he said.

Should Brazil continue to have food safety or animal health issues, NCBA expected the US government, including Capitol Hill, to take all necessary and immediate actions to protect US consumers and US beef producers, Mr Bacus said.

“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. 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 labelling without violating our international trade obligations,” he said.

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