In June of 2017, approximately 1.9 million pounds (11 percent) of Brazilian beef were rejected by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues. In resonse, the United States put a ban on fresh beef imports from the country.
But, after three years, the United States has reopened its market to fresh Brazilian beef. Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias announced the decision on her Twitter account. “FSIS said that Brazil has corrected the systemic problems that led to the suspension and is restoring the eligibility of fresh beef exports to the United States,” she said in a recorded video on the site. USDA has since confirmed the news.
Globally, Brazil is one of the largest beef producers in the world, exporting $7.3 billion in fresh and industrialized beef products last year, according to Brazilian government statistics.
According to Abiec, the Brazilian Beef Exporting Association, exports of beef from Brazil reached nearly 1.82 million tons last year, an increase from the 1.64 million tons a year prior. Estimates for 2020 are expected to see increases of 13% to 2.06 million tons.
Some in U.S. “Stunned” by Decision
The decision to allow beef back in the U.S. is one that does not sit well with many—especially those involved in the U.S. cattle trade.
Kenneth Morris, a cattle rancher in Montana and member of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, doesn’t think Brazil beef is any safer today than it was when it was banned in 2017. “The major beef process is JBS BS, based out of Brazil, and it’s being investigated for bribing 1,800 officials in Brazil, some of whom were food safety inspectors,” he told Food Quality & Safety. “We can’t allow these corrupt criminals to pull the wool over our eyes.” He noted the only way to remedy any problems is mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork.
Brooke Miller, president of the United States Cattlemen’s Association, noted that the organization is “stunned” by this decision, citing a risk to the health of the U.S. domestic cattle herd and more importantly, jeopardizing the safety of consumers. “We remain concerned with the beef product Brazil exports to our country and reject the finding that the country’s food safety and production standards are equivalent to the U.S. beef and cattle industry,” he said. “We will be considering all options to put an immediate halt on Brazilian beef imports, to protect both the safety of our domestic herd and our consumers.”
Kent Bacus, senior director of international trade and market access for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, also expressed deep concerns about the re-entry of Brazilian beef to the U.S. market. “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,” he said. “Given Brazil’s history of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and its track record of repeated food safety violations at ports-of-entry, you can rest assured that NCBA will keep an eagle eye focus on all developments with Brazil and we expect nothing less than the highest level of scrutiny from USDA and customs officials.”