USDA makes waves with new Brazilian beef proposal

Dec 27, 2013

—Possibility of fresh beef imports from Brazil have sparked FMD fears

Last week USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced they are considering revising regulations prohibiting the import of beef products from Brazil.

The proposal would allow the importation of uncooked beef from certain—previously banned—Brazilian states: Bahia, Distrito Federal, Espirito Santo, Goias, Mato Grosso, Mato Grossodo Sul, Minas Gerais, Parana, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Rondonia, Sao Paulo, Sergipe, and Tocantins. See map at left for a visual.

“Based on the evidence in a recent risk assessment, we have determined that fresh (chilled or frozen) beef can be safely imported from those Brazilian states, provided certain conditions are met,” read the USDA/APHIS announcement of the proposal.

“This action would provide for the importation of beef from the designated region in Brazil into the United States while continuing to protect the United States against the introduction of foot-andmouth disease.”

It is the latter detail that has some groups worried. Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a very contagious disease, which, while not deadly in its own right, is most often controlled by the destruction of the infected herd.

The virus causes significant economic losses as infected animals are extremely uncomfortable and often don’t want to eat, move or stand.

FMD has not been seen in the U.S. since 1929 and the U.S. has taken strict efforts to maintain that FMD-free status. The virulence of the disease has led to this level of precaution. The virus can live in and be transferred through tissues, saliva, urine, other bodily fluids and can become airborne. According to the USDA, the virus can survive in the environment for up to eight months under the right conditions.

“Based on a risk assessment and series of site visits, APHIS concluded that Brazil has the veterinary infrastructure in place to detect and effectively eradicate an FMD outbreak if necessary,” noted the announcement of the proposal.

“And, imported beef would be subject to regulations that would mitigate the risk of FMD introduction, including movement restrictions, inspections, removal of potentially affected parts and a maturation process.”

Members of the group R- CALF— Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund—are not impressed, however. The group’s CEO Bill Bullard characterized the proposal as USDA “kowtowing to Brazilian-based JBS.”

“APHIS’ proposed rule is irresponsible and will wreak havoc on the economy of rural America that is certain to be harmed both by falling cattle prices and the increased risk of disease introduction,” he said.

However, Brazil would not be the first country with a known FMD-positive status to be allowed limited importation of fresh beef into the U.S. Currently Uruguay is not listed as FMD-free, but imports fresh boneless beef and lamb/mutton into the U.S., provided the following list of restrictions are met:

• The meat is from animals born, raised and slaughtered in Uruguay.

• FMD has not been diagnosed in Uruguay within the previous 12 months.

• FMD had not been present on the home farm of the animals from which the meat came during their lives.

• The meat came from animals moved directly from their home farm to the slaughtering facility.

• The meat and the animals it came from was inspected with attention to the head and feet.

• The meat comes only from muscle cuts, containing no portion of the head, feet, hump, hooves, internal organs, bones, visually identifiable blood clots or lymphoid.

• Very specific maturation processes and pH testing of the carcasses were conducted and requisite benchmarks were met.

• The meat was not in contact with meat from un-cleared regions.

• Slaughter facilities allow periodic site, record, facility and operation evaluations by APHIS officials. • An authorized veterinary official of the government of Uruguay certifies on the foreign meat inspection certificate that the above conditions have been met.

The proposal to allow fresh beef imports from Brazil is open to public comment until Feb. 21. Comments may be submitted either by mail or online.

By mail: Docket No. APHIS-2009-0017, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

Online: Go to!docketDeta il;D=APHIS-2009-0017.

Remember that all comments made will eventually be made public. Do not include any information in your comment that you would be uncomfortable being open to the public. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor