With beef prices in the U.S. reaching stratospheric levels, looking to one of our top-10 trading partners for increased supply would seem to be in the best interest of hard-pressed American consumers. But the Denver-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says that action by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service opening the U.S. to importation of fresh and frozen beef from 14 Brazilian states is putting those consumers at risk. And, because of a separate audit, USDA won’t be certifying any new establishments as eligible to export to the U.S. The conflicting decisions have left a lingering controversy in their wake. “We are more convinced than ever, after reading this report, that Brazil is not capable of holding its industry to the same standards we hold ourselves to,” says Victoria, TX, cattleman Bob McCan, NCBA president. McCan was referring to the final audit report dated April 16, 2014, from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on the Feb. 19-March 14, 2013, onsite review of Brazil’s inspection system. The cattlemen’s group is critical of FSIS for not providing more timely access to the report on Brazil’s inspection system. Onsite reviews are conducted to determine if a foreign country’s meat inspection system is equivalent to USDA’s. Importing nations must meet or exceed requirements imposed in the U.S. by FSIS meat inspectors. An onsite review like the one conducted last year in Brazil focuses on six main system components: government oversight, statutory authority and food safety regulations, sanitation, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems, chemical residue control programs, and microbiological testing programs. NCBA’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Kathy Simmons, says the cattlemen’s association has “significant concerns with Brazil’s ability and willingness to meet established compliance requirements.” “Most alarming to me is the inconsistent application and implementation of Specified Risk Material (SRM) requirements throughout the system and a history of unresolved drug residue violations,” Simmons says. SRMs, including such parts as the brain, skull, spinal cord and eyes, are prohibited from entering the human food chain because of their potential as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) agents. BSE is the prion disorder also known as “Mad Cow” disease. Brazil’s meat inspectors do not have a uniform definition for SRMs in cattle consistent with FSIS requirements. The audit found that would result in inconsistent implementation of SRM regulations. It may be a timely point now that Brazil has discovered its second cow believed to have been suffering from atypical BSE. The audit also found shortcomings in HACCP practices, sanitation enforcement, and the prevention of cross-contamination in one establishment of cow carcasses. It concludes by saying that, “until Brazil has satisfactorily addressed these issues, FSIS will not certify any new establishments as eligible to export to the United States.” McCan says the cattlemen support free and open trade, but that requires both sides to “uphold certain standards.” “If Brazil cannot manage their food safety equivalency standards, how can we trust that they have the safeguards to protect animal health?” McCan asks. “Therefore, we continue to urge APHIS to withdraw this proposed rule.” Overall, FSIS found Brazil’s inspection system to be “adequate” for maintaining equivalence to its own. FSIS has three levels of performance for foreign inspection systems: adequate, average, and well-performing. FSIS has asked Brazil to respond within 60 days with plans to address concerns raised by the audit. Until the matter is resolved, it means no additional establishments in the country will be allowed to export to the U.S.

  • crookedstick

    FSIS has three levels of performance? Adequate, average and well-performing? ADEQUATE is below average? What! The acceptance level can be BELOW average? Do we have these same “high” standards in American plants? No wonder more and more people are boycotting beef!

  • Shane

    Ha ! The irony of U.S. cattlemen objecting to anything on food safety grounds is just too rich not be commented upon ! They continue to lobby might and main for Charley Stenholm’s guiding obsession in life to see horse slaughter return to the United States, despite the high likelihood that would mean that beef would become adulterated with toxic horse meat and yet now they are suddenly concerned about food safety?!! Could it be they are really concerned that their political stranglehold would be broken as well as their obscene profits lessened with foreign competition ? Why yes, yes it could !

    • John Munsell

      I disagree. “Toxic” horse meat? Cross contamination? Yup, it’s better to merely set old, decrepit horses loose into the wild to fend for themselves. More humane, you know.

      • Storm Dancer

        You are very misinformed as old, sick, “decrepit” skinny horses are not wanted by the slaughterhouses and are quite frequently rejected at the border by the inspectors which then leaves these rejects being dumped in remote areas by the kill buyers to fend for themselves, many found dead or dying of starvation or thirst, all with auction/slaughter tags still attached, on average about 5000 horses a year are dumped by kill buyers after they have been rejected by the slaughterhouse inspectors. Many skinny, old and sick horses are not even purchased by the kill buyers at auctions as they can not make any money on them since they get paid by the pound based on how fat the animal is. http://equinewelfarealliance.org/uploads/Abandoned_Horses-FINAL.pdf

        The average age of a slaughter bound horse is between 2-6 yrs old and they are fat and healthy as per the USDA reports for 2013. Pregnant mares are also shipped as well as foals, late term pregnant mares are set aside in a pen until they give birth in some locations and in others they are not and the foals that are removed during the mares vivisection, are tossed alive in the trash along with the rest of her entrails, older foals or the ones born at the slaughter plants are slaughtered not for their meat as they have very little but for their hides as it is used in high end leather products such as purses, gloves, car seats etc, it goes by many names but the most common name it goes by today is “pony skin”

        The USDA classifies horses as livestock merely because most are raised or kept in a farm type setting however the FDA classifies horses as a non food, companion animal which in turn allows horses to be given all kinds of drugs and medications through out their lifetimes which are prohibited from being used in any food animal. these drugs and medications, 353 different names/types ( found here http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/animaldrugsatfda/index.cfm?gb=2 found by searching by species Equids), included wormers, fly spray, topical wound ointments, yearly vaccines, steroids, tranquillizers, antibiotics, anti inflammatory and pain killers.

        The number one anti inflammatory/pain killer used in horses is called Phenylbutazone aka “Bute”, Phenylbutazone became available for use in humans for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and gout in (1949), but is no longer approved, and thus not marketed, for any human use in the United States. This is because some patients treated with phenylbutazone have experienced severe toxic reactions, and other effective, less toxic drugs are available to treat the same conditions. Phenylbutazone is known for its ulcerogenic, nephrotoxic, and hemotoxic effects in horses, dogs, rats, and humans. It is known to induce blood dyscrasias, including aplastic anemia, leukopenia, agranulocytosis, thrombocytopenia, and deaths. The reported adverse reactions were associated with the human clinical use of 200 to 800 milligrams phenylbutazone per day. Hypersensitivity reactions of the serum-sickness type have also been reported in patients with phenylbutazone. The threshold for this effect has not been defined. Therefore, it is unclear what level of exposure would be required to trigger such reactions in sensitive people. Moreover, phenylbutazone is a carcinogen, as determined by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) based on positive results in genotoxicity tests and some evidence of carcinogenicity seen in the rat and mouse in carcinogenicity bioassays NTP conducted.

        For animals, phenylbutazone is currently approved only for oral and injectable use in dogs and horses. Use in horses is limited to use in horses not intended for food. There are currently no approved uses of phenylbutazone in food-producing animals. Investigation by FDA and state regulatory counterparts has recently found phenylbutazone on farms and identified tissue residues in culled dairy cattle. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety Inspection Service has reported phenylbutazone residues in culled cattle presented for slaughter for human food throughout the United States in the past 2 calendar years. This evidence indicates that the extralabel use of phenylbutazone in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older will likely result in the presence, at slaughter, of residues that are toxic to humans, including being carcinogenic, at levels that have not been shown to be safe.More than 95% of all US horses have received this drug at least once in their lifetime, yet more than 100,000 US horses are shipped to slaughter in Mexico and Canada every year for human consumption in Canada, Europe and Japan. 89% of these horses come from the racing industry, according to USDA records, 70% are Quarter Horses and 19% are Throughbreds which are also given performance enhancing drugs that are a cocktail of illegal street drugs or have been banned for use in race horses by the racing industry itself.

        the EID forms required for all slaughter horses by all EU slaughter houses, state all horses have to have a lifetime medical history and have been drug free for no less than 6 months but these forms are falsified by the Kill buyers, who claim the animal is drug free for that time period regardless of the fact the animal was just purchased within days of slaughter at auction and the lifetime medical histories do not follow the horses from previous owner to slaughter, in fact many times the paperwork and the animal did not match up, wrong color, wrong sex, type ( ie: horse labeled as a mule or donkey) brands and tattoos are not included in the descriptions, markings and scars are not documented, photos don’t match as well as tag numbers.

  • BowFarm

    What is odd is that in 2013, the US exported more than $6 billion of beef. It doesn’t make sense to import what the US is exporting in huge quantities. And the risk of causing an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease is too great. If there was an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the US, the cost would be in the tens of billions, and the US would lose its export market. If the US wants to lower beef costs in the US, stop exporting so much beef.