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Quote Stirs Debate Over Brazilian Meat Safety

Al Almanza, the top administrator at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, was quoted Monday in Food Chemical News saying that misuse of Ivermectin, a broad-based antiparasitic animal drug, is a “systematic problem” in Brazil.

That in turn caused Wenonah Hauter with Food & Water Watch to fax a letter over to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack demanding Brazil be dropped from the list of countries eligible to export meat to the United States.

Hauter also asked Vilsack to stop FSIS from any activities that might lead to declaring the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina being animal disease-free, an action that would expand Brazil’s capacity to export fresh meat to the U.S.

“I am requesting these actions in light of new information provided by the Administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Alfred Almanza, in a recent media report regarding an investigation being conducted by his agency into Brazil’s food safety system, ” the Food and Water Watch executive director wrote.

It was the latest fallout since last May 14, when Chicago-based Sampco Inc. recalled about 87,000 pounds of beef from Brazil was found to contain higher levels of the animal drug Ivermectin than are allowed in meat for human consumption in the U.S.

All Brazilian meat establishments were delisted from export eligibility to the U.S. on May 27, and on June 24, another 61,000 pounds expanded the second-class recall by Sampco Inc.

Brazil then voluntarily suspended its exports for cooked beef products to the U.S., and FSIS stepped up its investigation.

Then yesterday, Food Chemical News reported that while all the beef recalled for Ivermectin contamination came from the same Brazilian processing plant, unacceptable levels were found in other facilities that ship to the U.S.

In the letter to the USDA Secretary, Hauter said some at FSIS do not view the animal drug as an imminent public health risk, but he noted the Inspector General has found excessive levels of Ivermectin “can eventually lead to neurotoxicity in humans.”

Brazil “has a long history of not complying with our food safety standards,” Food and Water Watch head charged.

Yesterday’s letter was Hauter’s third to Vilsack since the issue began in May.   Food and Water Watch has also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the USDA seeking details on its investigation involving Ivermectin.

In the Food Chemical News report, Almanza said USDA would have had to shut down trade had Brazil not acted voluntarily.

© Food Safety News