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USDA approves fresh beef from Brazil

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Feb. 21, 2020, that it would allow importation of raw beef from Brazil as of that date .

FSIS suspended the export of raw intact beef from Brazil in 2017 “because of recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market,” said the USDA news release 3 years ago.

FSIS says it confirmed that Brazil has implemented corrective actions, and its food safety inspection system governing the production of raw intact beef is equivalent to that of the U.S.

“FSIS recently conducted a targeted, on-site equivalence verification audit of Brazil’s raw intact beef products to verify the implementation of corrective actions in response to several audits and technical discussions since FSIS suspended the export of raw intact beef from Brazil in 2017. FSIS uses a three-pronged approach to verify that a foreign country’s inspection system for imported meat, poultry, and processed egg products achieves an equivalent level of public health protection as the U.S. inspection system.

Many cattle and beef organizations expressed concern over foot and mouth disease as well as market interruptions.

“NCBA has frequently questioned the lack of scientific evidence that was used to justify Brazil’s initial access to the U.S. market in 2016, and unfortunately, we were not surprised when Brazil forfeited its beef access to the U.S. in 2017 due to numerous food safety violations. NCBA praised Secretary Perdue for standing up for science-based trade and holding Brazil accountable for their numerous violations by suspending Brazil’s access and subjecting Brazil to undergo a thorough science-based inspection and audit process. It is evident that USDA believes that Brazil has addressed the concerns raised in the audit process, and steps will soon be taken to restore Brazil’s access to the United States,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Senior Director, International Trade and Market Access, Kent Bacus in a news release from the organization.

He said the Secretary’s own economic analysis shows unequivocally that cattle producers would be hardest hit by raw beef imports from Brazil: “By far, the largest share of the welfare loss would be incurred by cattle producers, at $143 million,” states the Secretary’s economic analysis for Brazil.

“But the Secretary rationalizes this hit on America’s cattle producers by assuming that the cheaper beef derived from cheaper cattle in Brazil would provide America’s consumers with lower-cost beef and more choices,” Bullard said.

Indeed, the CME Group, a global securities and commodity exchange company, had reported in early January that the price of Brazilian steers was 40% less than the price of U.S. fed steers based on November 2019 pricing data.

But Bullard contends these cheaper cattle do not result in cheaper beef or more choices for American consumers.

“The Secretary’s assumption is false as imported beef can be sold to American consumers with nothing but a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) safety inspection sticker, meaning consumers cannot distinguish this cheaper beef from the superior, safer and higher-quality beef produced by America’s cattle farmers and ranchers, though the inspection sticker leads every consumer to erroneously believe all the beef available in the grocery store is USA beef,” Bullard commented.

According to Bullard, the Secretary was in such a rush to allow fresh beef from Brazil that he conducted only a partial audit report that he now uses to claim Brazil is meeting U.S. safety standards.

The January 2020 safety audit reveals that the Secretary did not review all aspects of Brazil’s food safety inspection system; he reviewed fewer than 30% of the Brazilian meatpacking plants now eligible to export fresh beef to the U.S.; and, he evaluated only two of the six critical components for determining whether Brazil’s food safety inspection system was equivalent to that of the United States.

“Congress must intervene by reinstating Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (M-COOL) for beef so America’s cattle producers can at least begin competing against these cheaper, less-safe and undifferentiated imports that function as direct substitutes for beef produced exclusively in the United States,” he concluded.

NCBA also discussed their concerns over labeling, but they didn’t go so far as to call for mandatory COOL.

“The re-entry of Brazilian beef to the U.S. market only further exacerbates concerns about the use of ‘Product of USA’ labels on beef sold in the United States. As the trusted leader and definitive voice of the U.S. beef industry, NCBA will continue leading conversations with USDA and the entire supply chain to address any labels that may allow imported beef to carry a “Product of USA” label. NCBA believes voluntary origin labels with verified source claims will provide transparency in labeling without violating our international trade obligations,” said Bacus.




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