Brazil defends beef after 'system-wide problem' prompts U.S. ban
Brazil scrambled to shore up its beef industry's reputation on Friday after the United States blocked shipments of fresh cuts, saying it found abscesses in the meat and signs of systemic failure of inspections in the world's largest beef exporter.
Officials in Canada and the European Union also said they had rejected some shipments of Brazilian beef in recent months. Brazil's government and meat industry said most problems stemmed from vaccinations and were being addressed.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture described repeated import violations involving raw beef from seven Brazilian facilities, indicating a "system-wide problem," according to a letter seen by Reuters on Friday explaining the reason for Thursday's ban.
While fresh beef shipments to the United States represent only 1 percent Brazil's beef exports, the ban there and scrutiny elsewhere threatens to tarnish the country's powerhouse protein industry, which has suffered a series of recent scandals.
"If you look at the financial aspect, it's important for the country but the bigger damage is to our image," said Antonio Camardelli, head of Brazilian meat exporters association Abiec. He said USDA approval for Brazil's fresh beef, which was only granted last year, was expected to open the door to bigger fresh beef importers such as Japan and South Korea.
"We worked a long time to open the U.S. market because it's a passport to other markets," Camardelli said.
Brazil Deputy Agriculture Minister Eumar Novacki said the problems laid out by the USDA posed no risk to public health. Novacki told reporters at a news conference that some cattle had adverse reactions to certain vaccines.
Among the violations the USDA detected were abscesses, unidentified foreign material and "ingesta," which can include any food, drink or medicine that cattle consume.