Tester bill would halt Brazil beef
Brazil reported two cases of atypical BSE on Sept. 3, 2021. It is believed that the cases were detected in June of this year, meaning the country waited more than two months to report the cases to the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE). According to NCBA, OIE rules require that a country report animal disease events that could be of international concern within 24 hours.
Montana’s Senator Jon Tester introduced S. 3230, on Nov. 17, 2021, which would suspend fresh Brazilian beef imports into the United States until experts can conduct a systemic review of the commodity’s safety.
In contrast to Brazil’s reporting procrastination, most countries report similar cases to the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) immediately, said Tester. He said both the United Kingdom and Germany this year reporting cases to OIE within days of their occurrence earlier this year – but Brazil reported its cases more than 2 months after the fact, breaking trust with the OIE and global trading partners. This has been a routine occurrence, with Brazil also waiting months or even years to report similar cases in 2019, 2014, and 2012.
Brazil enjoys preferential market access on the global stage due to its designation as a “negligible risk” exporter by OIE. While rare, one-off instances of atypical BSE do not necessarily indicate systemic issues with the health of Brazilian cattle herds, repeated delays in reporting suggest an overly lax food safety regime and raise concerns about the reporting of additional dangerous diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, and Avian Influenza, said Tester.
Tester’s bill would ensure that Brazilian beef is safe to eat before it is brought back into U.S. markets by imposing a moratorium on Brazilian beef until a group of food safety and trade experts has made a recommendation regarding its import status. The legislation is supported by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and R-CALF USA.
“It’s time to keep Brazilian fresh beef out of this country until USDA can confirm that Brazil meets the same consumer and food safety standards that we apply to all our trade partners,” said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.
“NCBA has long expressed concerns about Brazil’s history of failing to report atypical BSE cases in a timely manner, a pattern that stretches back as far as 2012. Their poor track record and lack of transparency raises serious doubts about Brazil’s ability to produce cattle and beef at an equivalent level of safety as American producers. If they cannot meet that bar, their product has no place here,” added Lane.
R-CALF USA calls for further action – in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the Billings-based group asked for an immediate suspension of imports of all beef products, both fresh and pre-cooked, pending a United States investigation into Brazil’s food safety system and its veterinary diagnostic laboratory system.
R-CALF USA also makes a renewed call for implementation of Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling of beef which would a market-based approach to enforcement which may be more effective in causing Brazil to comply with USDA rules.
“We cannot wait for an endemic animal disease to reach our borders before we take action,” said Leo McDonnell, Director Emeritus, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “There is a clear and present threat associated with the importation of Brazilian beef imports that we need to halt immediately.
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