The USDA is testing shipments of raw beef and ready-to-eat products from Brazil after reports revealed Brazilian inspectors allegedly were taking bribes to allow sales of tainted food.
This is obviously a concern to many as Brazil is one of the world’s largest beef and veal producers, totaling more than $13 billion in sales last year. The country is also one of the largest exporters of chicken and pork products. So, the fact that inspectors are being investigated for allegedly allowing tainted food to get through is a major concern to the U.S. and other countries who import Brazilian meats.
Agriculture Ministry investigators reported that they have evidence of at least 21 meat companies—including JBS SA and BRF SA, Brazil’s two biggest meat suppliers’—bribing government inspectors to approve sales and exports, even though the meat and poultry was spoiled or contaminated. As of March 27, 33 federal inspectors were under investigation.
Last August, the U.S. and Brazilian governments agreed to open up their respective markets to fresh beef exports, a window expected to boost Brazil’s shipments to the U.S. by $900 million in the year ahead. That could be greatly affected by the scandal.
None of the slaughter or processing facilities implicated in the Brazilian scandal have shipped meat products to the U.S., but the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has created additional steps to keep the food supply safe for American families and ease consumers’ minds.
FSIS has instituted extra pathogen testing of all shipments of raw beef and ready-to-eat products from Brazil to its already strict safety standards. The agency has also increased its examination all Brazilian products at ports-of-entry across the country.
“Keeping food safe for American families is our top priority,” Mike Young, USDA’s acting deputy secretary, said in an organizational release. “FSIS has strengthened the existing safeguards that protect the American food supply as a precaution and is monitoring the Brazilian government’s investigation closely.”
For the immediate future, the agency will indefinitely maintain its 100 percent re-inspection and pathogen testing of all lots of FSIS-regulated products imported from Brazil.
When the investigation was first announced last week, China, Chile, and Egypt were among the countries banning Brazilian meat, but have since lifted the suspensions. U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Jon Tester of Montana had also pushed for a U.S. ban, writing a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to suspend imports, citing “the reputation of U.S. beef producers whose meat is sold next to imported meat—now without mandatory country of origin labeling.”
The USDA noted a box of meat imported from Brazil is labeled as coming from Brazil only if it was sold to consumers in its original container, but it is not labeled if it is repackaged or reprocessed.