WASHINGTON – Organizations representing US beef producers are calling on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to suspend imports of fresh beef from Brazil over concerns that the country’s animal health agencies aren’t reporting outbreaks of animal diseases in a timely fashion to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
In June of 2021, Brazil had two cases of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). But relevant authorities didn’t report the cases to the OIE until September. In a letter to Vilsack, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) asked Vilsack to indefinitely suspend imports of fresh beef from Brazil so that the US Department of Agriculture can conduct a thorough review and a risk assessment of Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply (MAPA), and its veterinary diagnostic laboratory system.
“While atypical BSE cases are rare and are excluded from OIE’s scope of BSE categorization, most countries immediately report atypical BSE cases as a matter of transparency and as a commitment to objective, science-based standards,” NCBA said in its letter. “In fact, the OIE clearly states that “Members must report the occurrence of animal diseases listed by the OIE, the emergence of new diseases and significant epidemiologic events within 24 hours of the event.” Unfortunately, the OIE was not notified of Brazil’s two BSE cases until September 3, 2021 — several weeks after both cases were identified."
R-CALF USA also sent a letter to Vilsack urging more expansive action calling for an immediate suspension of imports of all beef products, both fresh and pre-cooked.
“This expanded request is based on our knowledge that the BSE prion is not inactivated by conventional beef-related heat processes,” R-CALF said. “Therefore, and because our request is chiefly driven by Brazil’s repeated failures to timely report BSE outbreaks, all imports of all beef potentially subject to BSE contamination must be suspended.”
NCBA noted that other countries with confirmed BSE cases notified the OIE within hours or days of confirmation. But Brazil has a history of delayed reporting of BSE cases which calls into question its commitment to reporting other significant diseases such as African swine fever, avian influenza, or foot-and-mouth disease, according to the NCBA.
“It’s time to keep Brazilian fresh beef out of this country until USDA can confirm that Brazil meets the same consumer and food safety standards that we apply to all our trade partners," said Ethan Lane, NCBA vice president of Government Affairs. “NCBA has long expressed concerns about Brazil's history of failing to report atypical BSE cases in a timely manner, a pattern that stretches back as far as 2012. Their poor track record and lack of transparency raises serious doubts about Brazil's ability to produce cattle and beef at an equivalent level of safety as American producers. If they cannot meet that bar, their product has no place here.”