Brazil is cooperating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on corrective actions the South American country must take to keep its food safety equivalent to that of the United States.

Staff from FSIS conducted an on-site verification audit of Brazil’s meat inspection system from June 10 through June 28, 2019. On Nov. 22, USDA notified the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply (MAPA) that an on-site verification follow-up audit is required to verify Brazil has taken promised corrective actions.

“Based on the written documentation provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA), FSIS believes Brazil’s meat inspection system is meeting U.S. import requirements,” a Dec. 19 USDA letter to Brazil says. “However, the audit is critical to verify full implementation of the written controls within your country’s meat inspection system.”

Among the issues that FSIS plans to address in the follow-up audit are:

  • Implementation of the written guidelines that set the body temperature at which livestock, including cattle and swine, are to be condemned during post mortem inspection.
  • Implementation of post-mortem inspection procedures to ensure only wholesome carcasses, free of contamination and defects, receive the market of inspection.
  • Control of specified risk material, which includes 1) preventing contamination of head or check meat by brain tissue from cattle 30 months or older during head washing; 2) appropriate tramming of lingual tonsils, and 3) documenting the removal of dorsal root ganglia and vertebral column at deboning.
  • Temperature controls must be implemented and verified by direct observation.
  • Official microbiological testing results from testing laboratories must be available to all regional inspection Service of Products of Animal Origin (SIPOA) offices.
  • Design and implementation of an N-60 sampling program for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) by government inspectors and testing of these samples by the government laborites.

Two years ago, Brazil’s meat scandal involving rotten and contaminated meat, bribery of inspectors and politicians and police actions to close some plants and suspend licenses of others shook the industry to its core.

Brazil currently exports processed beef and pork and raw intact pork to the United States.

FSIS import inspectors performed 100 percent reinspection for labeling and certification on 266,028,201 pounds of meat from Brazil from Feb. 1, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2019.

Included, according to the audit report, were 122,112,534 pounds of thermally processed, commercially sterile (TPCS) beef; 660,254 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) beef fully-cooked without subsequent exposure to the environment; 18,734,723 pounds of RTE fully-cooked beef; 60,555,534 pounds of RTE dried beef; 51,999 pounds of RTE acidified/fermented beef (without cooking); 20,930,270 pounds of raw intact beef (before suspension in June 2017 by FSIS); 572,773 pounds of not ready-to-eat (NRTE) otherwise processed beef; 113,946 pounds of TPCS pork; and 42,296,168 pounds of raw intact pork exported by Brazil to the United States.

Of these amounts, additional types of inspection were performed on 149,511,817 pounds of meat, including testing for chemical residues and microbiological pathogens (Shiga toxin- producing Escherichia coli [STEC] O157:H7, O26, O45, O103, O111, O121, and O145 in beef; and Listeria monocytogenes [Lm] and Salmonella in RTE products).

On March 18, 2017, FSIS implemented increased product exams and sampling and testing for pathogens of all meat products imported from Brazil to ensure ongoing equivalence in response to a serious trend of
food safety violations identified at port-of-entry (POE) during reinspection of Brazilian product. FSIS conducted the last audit of Brazil in May 2017.

On June 22, 2017, FSIS suspended the eligibility of raw intact beef from Brazil. FSIS took the action to protect United States public health in response to a serious trend of food safety violations and animal health concerns (i.e., the presence of tissues prohibited by APHIS, such as blood clots, lymph nodes, and bone fragments) identified at point-of-entry (POE) during reinspection of Brazilian product.

These POE violations correlate to observations made during the last on-site audit of Brazil conducted in 2017, which included weaknesses in Brazil’s government oversight of sanitation in product handling, and post-mortem carcass inspection; inadequate verification of sanitary dressing procedures; and lack of conflict of interest controls between inspection personnel and establishment management.

The nature, extent, and degree of 2017 audit findings have also played an equivalent role in FSIS’s decision to elevate the frequency of product exams and other sampling and testing at POE discussed above.

Between March 18 and June 28, 2017, FSIS refused entry to approximately two million pounds of raw beef products due to public health and animal health concerns, mainly pathology defects (abscesses) and tissues prohibited by APHIS, including blood clots, bones, and lymphoid tissue.