Brazil’s second reported BSE case raises food safety concerns

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Farm Forum

Billings, Mont. — On May 5 the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) provided notice that Brazil confirmed its second case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), this time in a 12-year-old Brazilian cow. While the notice states that none of the meat or other products from the infected cow entered the food chain, a recent audit report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that Brazil has not been complying with BSE safeguard measures required by the United States.

A recent audit report by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) sent to the Brazilian government on April 16, 2014, reveals that Brazil has not been consistently implementing the United States’ mandatory requirement that all specified risk materials (SRMs) from cattle be excluded from the human food chain as a condition for allowing Brazil to export beef to the United States.

Specifically, the audit found that beginning in early 2007, the Brazilian government relaxed its SRM removal policies by issuing a notice that removed the skull, trigeminal ganglia, vertebral column, and dorsal root ganglia in cattle 30 months of age or older from the list of SRMs that must be removed at slaughter. The tissues improperly removed from the list of SRMs by the Brazilian government are tissues known to harbor the BSE agent in infected cattle.

United States food safety inspectors confirmed that Brazil was not routinely removing all high-risk tissues as required for countries that export to the United States.

Despite Brazil’s failure to meet U.S. food safety standards, FSIS officials nevertheless determined that Brazil “continues to meet FSIS equivalence criteria at an adequate level for this component (the SRM removal component).”

R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said these facts demonstrate the need to fully enforce the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law. “Only with COOL can consumers choose to avoid purchasing their food from countries with questionable food safety systems,” he said.

Bullard also said these facts along with USDA’s current plan to begin importing beef from Brazilian states that are not free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is deeply troubling.

“More and more the USDA is demonstrating its unwillingness to prioritize food safety and animal health above its politically motivated trade relations goals,” he concluded.