February 25, 2020
By Dan Flynn on February 25, 2020
Raw intact beef from Brazil is again eligible for export to the United States beginning with cattle slaughtered on or after Feb. 21, 2020.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue had suspended all imports of fresh beef from Brazil because of “recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market.”
That USDA ban on Brazilian raw intact beef was imposed on June 22, 2017, and was ultimately USDA’s answer to the widespread bribery of Brazilian meat inspectors. That scandal put Brazilian food safety checks in doubt.
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent its auditors to Brazil June 10-28, 2019, and again just last month, Jan. 13-24, 2020.
The most recent visit was to verify that Brazil’s “central competent authority” took corrective actions regarding the 2019 audit findings. It was also to determine whether Brazil’s food safety inspection system is governing raw and processed meat equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and correctly labeled and packaged.”
The FSIS audit confirmed that Brazil had fully implemented the corrective actions from the prior audit findings. The FSIS audit team inspected eight of the 28 plants that may now export fresh, intact beef to the U.S.
The inspections confirmed the application of written guidelines that prescribe the body temperature at which livestock are to be condemned during antemortem inspection; and the implementation of post-mortem inspection procedures, which ensure that only wholesome carcasses, free of contamination and defects, receive the mark of inspection signifying approval.
Also, the FSIS auditors confirmed Brazil’s control of specified risk materials (SRM) and the verification of proper operation and maintenance of retorts.
During the raw intact beef ban, Brazil was able to export processed beef and pork and raw intact pork to the United States. With $7.3 billion in fresh and processed beef exports last year, Brazil is happy to see the end of the ban.
Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias announced the U.S. market was opening on Friday in Brasilia. The USDA confirmed it on Monday in a short FSIS Notice.
In the weeks prior to the beginning of the USDA ban, Brazilian Police charged 63 people in a corruption scheme that involved the country’s Ministry of Agriculture. Federal auditors at meat processing facilities were accused of having taken bribes for years in exchange for fraudulent sanitary permits.
The scheme reportedly also included selling spoiled meat and injecting water into poultry in order to sell it at high prices. Police also found chemical ingredients being used to make rotting meat spell better.
At the time, the U.S. had only been accepting fresh beef from Brazil since 2016 and the volume was small. None of the plants targeted by Brazilian police had shipped meat to the U.S.
Last October, Brazil’s BRF SA admitted to bribing food inspectors with cash and health benefits. This included payments of nearly $5 million through 2017. BRF SA reached a “leniency agreement” with the government. The European Union banned 12 BRF SA plants from selling in its member countries.
Police also said 39 of the 60 bribed inspectors remained on the job. About 2,500 food inspectors are employed by the Agriculture Ministry.
Before the USDA ban on Brazilian beef, FSIS was reinspecting all Brazilian meat entering the U.S.