The decision by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ban fresh Brazilian beef must throw doubts over any type of Mercosur deal, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

EU authorities have to take note of this decision and remove beef from any Mercosur deal, the IFA’s National Livestock Chairman, Angus Woods, said.

“Irish and European farmers will be rightly questioning how EU negotiators can continue to engage with the Mercosur countries, given this decision by the USDA.

“The Department of Agriculture in the US has suspended all imports of fresh beef amid ‘recurring concerns’ about the food safety of the product,” he said.

The EU Commission Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has undertaken a number of investigations on standards in Brazil, Woods added. He called for these reports to be published immediately.

He challenged the commission on the issue of standards saying that the Mercosur countries had consistently failed to meet EU standards on the key issues of: traceability; animal health and welfare controls; the ban on hormone growth promoters; and environmental controls.

US authorities have recognised that there is a problem and have insisted that consumers cannot be exposed to food products that do not meet US standards, Woods explained.

The IFA’s National Livestock Chairman reportedly met with the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, in Dublin recently, where he reiterated the association’s views on the Brazilian meat scandal.

“Since the ‘Weak Flesh scandal’ story broke in the Brazilian media last March, the real story regarding the sheer extent and political involvement in the scandal and corruption is only beginning to emerge in Brazil,” Woods concluded.

Brazilian beef inspections

Earlier today, the USDA revealed that its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been inspecting all Brazilian meat imports into the country since March.

The results of these inspections were reportedly the basis for the USDA banning all fresh Brazilian beef into the country.

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

As a result of these inspections, 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 department said that since inspection levels 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.