Washington D.C. — Members of the Safe Food Coalition today are applauding Administration officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for the decision to suspend Brazilian fresh beef products from entering the country. In March, an investigation dubbed “weak flesh” revealed widespread corruption and unsanitary practices Brazil’s meatpacking industry. Major U.S. trading partners implemented partial or total bans on meat products from Brazil. The Safe Food Coalition and other food safety advocates, including Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, urged FSIS to do the same.
Instead, FSIS began reinspecting meat products arriving in the United States from Brazil, and agency inspectors found many problems. Since March, they have refused entry to an alarming 11 percent of fresh beef shipments from Brazil. Earlier this week, Brazil self-suspended shipping beef from five facilities implicated in the “weak flesh” investigation. Shortly thereafter, Senator Jon Tester urged FSIS to suspend meat imports from Brazil and to conduct a comprehensive review of the country’s safety and inspection standards, citing “growing concerns that the American taxpayer is footing the bill at the expense of our local producers.” Now, FSIS has suspended all imports of fresh beef from Brazil, citing recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market.
This is welcome news for consumers. FSIS should follow up with a full reassessment of Brazil’s inspection system to assure consumers that the country is not exporting food safety threats. The recent investigation is the latest in a series of revelations that have cast doubt on whether Brazil’s food safety system actually meets U.S. standards for “equivalency.” Past food safety problems, like excessive residues of the drug ivermectin in canned meat products, have not been targeted by FSIS re-inspections and will not be affected by the suspension, which only targets fresh meat. Nevertheless, Safe Food Coalition members are hopeful that that U.S. officials will use the suspension as an opportunity to adequately review whether Brazil’s food safety inspection system is actually “equivalent” before it is too late, and American consumers begin getting sick.
The Safe Food Coalition is made up of consumer, public health and victim groups who work on issues related to food, and organizations representing labor in the food industry.