Imported meat from Brazil is not without its detractors in the United States. After the USDA announced it was re-opening the U.S. market to imports of fresh Brazilian beef, an independent cattlemen’s group said Brazilian meat is unfair competition because it is subsidized by the Brazilian government.
“That will pit America’s family cattle farmers and ranchers against Brazil’s $1.2 billion in subsidies to its cattle industry,” R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said adding, “That means our family farmers and ranchers will be competing against the Brazilian government’s treasury.”
Even longer ago, the advocacy group Food and Water Watch (FF&W) filed a petition with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to de-list Brazil as a country that could be considered for export of meat products to the United States.
F&WW made that request on Dec. 6, 2017, six months after Brazil was last suspended from selling intact beef in the U.S. market.
“We are taking this action because it has become obvious, through the agency’s own audits of Brazil’s meat inspection system over the past years and because Brazil’s own law enforcement authorities recently exposed corruption of the inspection system, that Brazil no longer meets the criteria for equivalency with USDA’s meat inspection system,” F&WW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter wrote.
In filing the petition, Hauter said FSIS has failed to reform or change Brazil’s inspection system, and it is not equivalent to that of the United States. F&WW pointed to the numerous times that it has repeatedly pointed out the same deficiencies to Brazilian officials
FSIS formally rejected the F&WW petition on Feb. 26, more than three years after it was submitted. And the petition was denied shortly after USDA ended the ban on Brazilian beef roasts and steaks. The 2017 ban was enacted in part because of the widespread bribery of Brazilian meat inspectors.
Ground beef and fine carcass trim products produced in Brazil — the world’s largest meat exporter — still cannot be exported to the U.S.
In denying the petition, FSIS cited its ongoing communication of Brazil’s DIPOA, regarding this suspension and associated concerns about the Brazilian meat inspection system.
“Extensive technical engagement between FSIS and OJPOA, including in person meetings and exchanges of documentation, ensured that Brazil understood PSIS requirements for food safety equivalency prior to and during the in-country audits,” the FSIS ruling said.
“From June I0 to 28, 2019, FSlS conducted an in-country audit to determine if appropriate food safety controls had been put in place that would support lifting the suspension of raw beef imports from Brazil,” it added.
The ruling says FSIS auditors discovered some systemic deficiencies during the audit. In response, Brazil provided FSlS with documented corrective actions and assurances concerning the 2019 audit findings.
From Jan. 13 to 24, 2020, FSIS conducted a follow-up targeted on-site verification audit to ensure the implementation of Brazil’s corrective actions proposed in response to FSIS’s June 2019 audit findings.
It said the 2020 FSIS audit identified no deficiencies and confirmed that Brazil had implemented the necessary corrective actions.
Consequently, as of Feb. 21 this year the FSIS said it has reinstated Brazil’s eligibility to export raw intact beef products to the United States.
“Therefore, as stated above, we are denying your petition,” the ruling to Hauter said.
“FSlS disagrees with your assertion that examination and testing of 100 percent of Brazilian meat subverted the FSIS equivalence process. All imported meat and poultry products are already subject to l00 percent re-inspection in order to verify accurate labeling and certification.”
And, FSIS has many procedures in place to take further actions when a country’s inspection system has been found to have deficiencies. Some are increased product examination, sampling, testing, and other re-inspection activities at U.S. import establishments. When FSIS determines that a country has implemented appropriate corrective actions to resolve the deficiencies, the agency will reduce the elevated re-inspection activities to routine levels.
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