The US Department of Agriculture has banned beef imports from Brazil for health reasons.
The United States have suspended imports of fresh Brazilian beef Thursday due to health problems since March when a scandal of spoiled meat erupted in Brazil.
This decision will be maintained “until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes remedial action deemed satisfactory by the USDA”, the US Department of Agriculture said in a statement.
To justify its decision, the USDA puts forward “recurring problems on the safety of products destined for the American market”.
Brazil has faced a severe food crisis in March when police revealed that large meat exporters had corrupted hygiene inspectors to certify spoiled meat as fit for consumption.
Several countries had closed their doors to Brazilian beef, although major markets such as China had subsequently reversed their restrictions. The United States, the world’s largest producer of beef, had introduced a strengthened control procedure.
“Since March, the USDA food safety and inspection services have inspected 100% of all meat products arriving in the US from Brazil,” the USDA said on Thursday.
But these services “have refused the entry to 11% of Brazilian fresh beef meat”. This figure is “much higher than the 1% rejection rate of cargo from the rest of the world,” the ministry added.
The Brazilian government has tried to resolve the situation by recently banning five factories from shipping beef to the United States. But that was not enough.
“Ensuring the country’s food security is one of our main missions, and one that we take seriously,” said Secretary of State for Agriculture Sonny Perdue quoted in the statement.
“While international trade is an important part of what we do at the USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my priority is to protect US consumers,” he added.
In a first reaction, the president of the Brazilian Association of the meat exporting industries (Abiec), Antonio Camardelli, said that the economic loss that would be generated by the American decision was “not quantifiable”. “It’s a growing market, the impact is general. The United States is a big importer of meat and the message that they send is that we can be replaced,” said Antonio Camardelli.
The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture did not react immediately to the measure taken Thursday by the United States.
Shortly thereafter, Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Borges Maggi said, as Camardelli had also said, that the origin of the problem was an animal reaction to a vaccine used by Brazil and that the technicians of his department were trying to solve this problem.
In statements to Brazilian media G1, the minister said a trip to the United States was planned to try to reopen the US market to Brazilian exports.
This suspension of imports comes less than a year after the two countries’ mutually prohibited bans on meat products were lifted on August 1st. The United States then justified its decision by ensuring that “the Brazilian food safety system on meat products is equivalent to that of the United States”.
Brazil imposed an embargo on US beef at the end of 2003, following the discovery of a first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States.
The National Association of Beef Producers (NCBA) welcomed in a statement the decision of the US government, calling it the “result of a test protocol on imported solid beef based on science” and “proof that our system food security is working well “.
According to figures from the Brazilian Association of Abiec Meat Exporters, exports of fresh beef from the country to the United States in 2016 represented only a small portion of its shipments sent abroad, arriving only in the 35th place of the importing countries of this product.
But the decision to suspend imports, even if it is symbolic, involves one of the key sectors of the Brazilian economy, already plunged into the worst recession in its history. Meat sales totaled more than $ 13 billion in 2016 for the South American giant’s economy.