Time to stop ‘pussy-footing’ around Brazilian beef imports

There is a “stark contrast” between last week’s US ban on imported Brazilian Beef and the “pussy-footing” that has characterised the EU’s response to the most recent certification and safety scandal in the Brazilian beef sector.

That is the view of the Chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Livestock Committee, Michael Guinan.

Guinan said that Irish farmers would be especially struck by the comments of US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who acknowledged that Brazil had been a long-term trade partner of the US but said categorically that his first priority “is to protect American consumers”.

Guinan went on to say: “No reasonable person could disagree with the absolute need to protect consumers, but attention should also be given to the need to protect indigenous Irish and wider EU beef producers who are at constant risk of seeing their own beef-raising operations being undermined by very dubious Brazilian beef imported without any credible certification while, at the same time, having themselves to meet the most exacting standards of production being applied anywhere in the world.”

Guinan said his organisation could never accept a situation where food can be sold in the EU that he knows for a fact has been produced to a far, far, lower standard than the food that is produced within the EU.

He added that it is time that the EU looked at the decisive US response to the threat posed – and imitated it.

Background to the comments

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the suspension of all fresh beef imports from Brazil due to “recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market”.

According to the USDA, the suspension will last until the Brazilian Ministry for Agriculture takes corrective action – which US authorities deem to be “satisfactory”.

Outlining its reasoning for such action, the USDA revealed that its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been inspecting all Brazilian meat imports into the country since March.

Of this, 11% of Brazil’s fresh beef products have been rejected – a considerably higher figure than the 1% rejection rate of imports from other counties.

The USDA said that, since inspection levels have increased, 106 lots – equal to about 862t – of meat were rejected. These were refused due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues.