Washington, D.C. -- In a regulatory petition filed today with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch called on the agency to finally revoke the equivalency status of Brazil as being eligible to export meat products to the United States. Citing countless shortcomings and deficiencies in the health and safety standards of Brazilian meat imports over fifteen years, the group urged the USDA to take the long-overdue step of halting such imports from Brazil entirely.
“FSIS has long realized that the Brazilian meat inspection system does not meet our standards, with audit after audit turning up major problems. Even with assurances from the Brazilian government that the issues would be addressed, they never were,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. "It's time for FSIS to cease Brazilian meat imports entirely to ensure that U.S. residents do not have to face disastrous health impacts."
The petition states that for fifteen years, FSIS has found egregious shortcomings in Brazil’s meat inspection system that has led to several suspensions of meat imports from that country. Yet, the agency has repeatedly refused to lift its recognition of the system.
The most recent audit conducted earlier this year showed that problems first identified in 2004 still had not been addressed by Brazil, such as potential conflict of interest issues involving Brazilian inspectors.
The 2017 audit came on the heels of a corruption investigation conducted by Brazilian law enforcement authorities which revealed that Brazilian meat inspectors were being bribed by Brazilian meat processors to let contaminated meat and poultry enter into commerce. Following the FSIS audit, on June 22, 2017, USDA announced that it was halting fresh beef imports from Brazil due to unsanitary conditions and animal health issues cited by USDA inspectors at ports-of-entry.
However, FSIS has continued to permit Brazil to export pork products and thermally processed beef products to the U.S. with the mandate for 100% re-inspection at the ports-of-entry. Food & Water Watch believes that 100% re-inspection means that USDA does not trust the Brazilian inspection system even for those products, thus undercutting the purpose of equivalency.
By revoking equivalency, USDA would send a strong message to other countries that U.S. food safety inspection standards will be strictly enforced.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; [email protected]