JBS Argentina OKed to export processed beef to U.S.

Oct 19, 2012

The Argentinean National Health Service and Food Agency (SENASA, after its Spanish initials) announced last week that JBS Argentina has been cleared to again export thermally-processed beef products into the U.S. This comes almost precisely a year after the world’s largest packer was barred from exporting beef into the U.S. after the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) found deficiencies in the company’s production systems.

FSIS has cleared JBS SA Argentina to export processed beef products into the U.S. According to the most recent Animal Product Manual by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, several JBS and subsidiary plants in Argentina have been cleared under the new decision. Locations include plants in cities Rosario, Santa Fe City, Tuerto and Caslida in Santa Fe, and cities Martinez, Alejandro Korn, Mar del Plata and Bernal Oeste in Buenos Aires.

Thermally-processed meats—generally meaning “cooked” or similarly heat-treated—can be anything from ready-to-eat meats and sausages and other shelf-stable meat products to precooked meats which can be used in further processing. In the case of the meat cleared from JBS Argentina, it will most likely go into grinding formulations.

The stipulations of the resumed beef trade require three things: meat must come from animals from certified farms and slaughter plants to ensure full traceability, improved testing procedures for Listeria, and correction of earlier oversights in the thermal processing. These three areas were called deficient in earlier FSIS audits of JBS’ Argentinean operations and led to the October 2011 prohibition on beef imports from those locations.

The requirements of certified farms and slaughter plants in the interest of traceability has a two-fold focus, one being the fact Argentina is known to have foot and mouth disease (FMD) contamination and the other being to protect against residues of the antiparasitic ivermectin.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, Argentina has FMD-free zones with and without the use of vaccinations, meaning FMD is still a potential threat and does crop up now and then in the country.

While not a food safety factor for humans, it is reportedly possible that FMD can be brought into a country via imports of fresh or frozen raw beef. It is not deadly to the animals it infects, but is economically debilitating as it severely impacts cattle’s feed intake and is extremely contagious. The disease has been wiped out in the U.S. since 1929.

Ivermectin is used on cattle to control various parasites, including intestinal roundworms, lungworms, mites, lice and horn flies. It comes in both pouron and injectable forms.

The withdrawal period is 48 days in adult slaughter cattle and is not cleared for use in veal calves. FSIS’ demand for certified farms and slaughter plants and full traceability aims to ensure the proper withdrawal period.

The other two FSIS requirements—improved testing for Listeria and thermal processing procedures—stemmed from deficiencies discovered during earlier audits. Reportedly, those deficiencies were corrected, but no detailing of what they were was available.

The renewed importation of thermally-processed beef from Argentina is an added boon for the country’s beef industry following one from its government. In April of this year, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez cut export taxes on thermally-processed meats from 15 to 5 percent in an effort to boost revenue for what she called one of the best added-value meat products the country has to offer, as well as supporting jobs. The tax cut will reportedly improve revenues by $12.5 million. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor