Food & Water Watch has written a letter to Acting Agriculture Secretary Michael Young, urging him to revoke the meat inspection equivalency determination for beef exported from Brazil. There have been recent revelations of massive corruption in the Brazilian meat inspection system, and chronic problems with past equivalency audits.
Equivalency determination means that the USDA considers the meat inspection system in another country to have the same standards as the U.S. system. China and the EU have already suspended imports of Brazilian beef.
Among the meatpackers involved in the scandal are BRF and JBS. JBS operates Brazilian plants that are certified to export meat and meat products to the United States. Until recently, Brazil was restricted to exporting only processed meat products to this country, but USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and FSIS have allowed fresh meat exports from Brazil. Domestic livestock groups have objected to this change, citing concerns about animal health and systemic shortcomings in the Brazilian meat inspection system.
The investigation of this scandal has uncovered some issues. Allegedly, company officials influenced the Brazilian government over assignment of certain federal inspectors to their plants, and those inspectors were paid bribes to ignore that adulterated meat was put into commerce. In addition, uncooperative inspectors were assigned to other meat plants. And, apparently, health certificates were falsified, and some of the bribes were paid directly to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party of Brazilian President Michel Temer.
Before the current scandal broke, groups were strongly against keeping Brazil’s meat inspection system equivalent to the USDA. Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement last June, “Brazil and Argentina have checkered food safety records, as USDA has been forced on several occasions to suspend imports of products currently eligible to come into the U.S. for various food safety violations and for failure to meet our inspection standards.”
And the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) issued a press release in 2014 that states that a newly released FSIS inspection repot shows “significant flaws in Brazil’s Food Safety Inspection.” Back in 2014, Dr. Kathy Simmons, NCBA chief veterinarian said in a statement, “This audit report confirms many of the compliance concerns that NCBA recently expressed in our comments on behalf of our members. Our members have significant concerns with Brazil’s ability and willingness to meet established compliance requirements. Most alarming to me is the inconsistent application and implementation of Specified Risk Material requirements throughout the system and a history of unresolved drug residue violations.”