U.S. halts imports of Brazilian beef, Montana senators pushed for ban

The U.S. has suspended all imports of fresh beef from Brazil due to continuing concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market.

The suspension will remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action which the U.S. Department of Agriculture find satisfactory, according to a Thursday evening news release.

“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply is one of our critical missions, and it’s one we undertake with great seriousness. 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,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release.

Since March, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been inspecting 100 percent of all meat products arriving from Brazil. FSIS has refused entry to 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products, which is substantially higher than the rejection rate of one percent of shipments from the rest of the world, according to USDA. 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. It is important to note that none of the rejected lots made it into the U.S. market.

Those inspections were implemented after news reports in March confirmed that Brazilian meat packers were using a cancer-causing acid in their meat. This led to several nations temporarily halting the importation of Brazilian meat.

According to USDA, the Brazilian government had pledged to address those concerns, including by self-suspending five facilities from shipping beef to the U.S., but today’s action to suspend all fresh beef shipments from Brazil supersedes the self-suspension.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association supported the action and Errol Rice, executive vice president, issued the following statement:

“We applaud the decision by USDA to put a ban on the import of Brazilian beef. International trade is an important aspect of our industry, but the safety of our nation’s food supply is imperative to both ranchers and consumers. We would like to thank Senator Jon Tester for taking the lead on this issue; as well as Secretary Sonny Perdue for taking swift action to initiate the ban.”

USDA had already removed five Brazilian meat packing plants from its approved exporter list due to safety concerns and on Wednesday, Tester renewed his call for USDA to ban all Brazilian meat imports until those concerns could be addressed.

“Our ranchers raise the best beef and pork products in the world,” Tester wrote to Perdue. “They adhere to extremely high safety standards and make extraordinary efforts to provide consumers with desirable and safe products. I believe it is unwise to risk the public’s trust in domestic meat products by potentially allowing harmful imports to make it into our marketplace.”

After the news broke about scandals in the Brazilian beef industry, Tester introduced a bill to ban beef from the South American nation for 120 days until safety concerns could be addressed.

Tester also questioned Perdue last week about the department’s plan to inspect Brazilian beef and in 2015, Tester helped block the importation of Brazilian beef from regions where foot-and-mouth disease was prevalent.

 

Sen. Steve Daines also wrote a letter to Perdue in March demanding that USDA “utilize all appropriate and legal means necessary to ensure that U.S. consumers are not at risk to any imported meat from Brazil or other countries.”