Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced it is lifting a ban on beef imports from Northern Argentina and 14 of Brazil’s 27 states. But the changes in regulation have some concerned about the risk of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The agency concluded that Argentina and Brazil are able to comply with U.S. import certification requirements, and APHIS risk assessments indicate that fresh (chilled or frozen) beef can be safely imported, provided certain conditions are met to make sure that beef exported to the U.S. will not harbor the FMD virus. These are the same conditions imposed on fresh beef and sheep meat from Uruguay “that we have been safely importing for many years,” APHIS said. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said that lifting the ban exposes the U.S. livestock industry to the highly contagious FMD. “An outbreak could result in not only health safety issues, but also quarantine and eradication of animals, a ban on exports, and reduced consumer confidence, all economically devastating risks to American livestock producers,” he said. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said she was “greatly disappointed” by the decision. The U.S. hasn’t had a case of FDM since 1929 because of bans against animal and meat imports from countries that have struggled with the disease, she added. “Recent audits show that there are deficiencies in both” Brazil and Argentina’s food inspection systems, DeLauro said, calling it an example of trade trumping the safety of the U.S. food supply.

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