Brazil inspectors say understaffing, budget cuts caused beef problems

on Jun27

A person looks at the refrigerated display case at a butcher's shop, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 20, 2017.

Cris Faga | NurPhoto | Getty Images

A person looks at the refrigerated display case at a butcher’s shop, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 20, 2017.

Brazil’s health inspectors union on Monday blamed understaffing and government budget cuts for sanitary problems that triggered a U.S. ban on Brazilian fresh beef imports that struck a new blow to the reputation of the country’s massive meat industry.

The ANFFA union said in an emailed statement there are around 270 meatpacking installations in Brazil operating without inspectors. That represents around 6 percent of the 4,800 meatpacking installations authorized to sell abroad.

Last week, the United States blocked Brazilian fresh beef shipments, saying it found abscesses in the meat and signs of systemic failure of inspections.

Brazilian Deputy Agriculture Minister Eumar Novacki on Friday said none of the problems found represented health risks for consumers, adding that some cattle had experienced adverse reactions to certain vaccines.

He acknowledged there were flaws in Brazil’s inspection system but said there could also be “commercial motivations” for the import ban.

The U.S. ban on Brazilian meat came three months after a broader crisis caused by a police investigation into alleged bribery of health officials by meatpackers including JBS SA, the world’s largest protein processor.

The union said the understaffing situation was also contributing to corruption since it was harder to bribe employees who work in tandem. “When you have two government inspectors working together in a meatpacking plant, one oversees the work of another, and the possible briber feels intimidated to propose anything,” said ANFFA President Mauricio Porto in a statement emailed to Reuters after a request for comments on the beef trade row.

The Agriculture Ministry did not have an immediate comment on Monday regarding ANFFA’s statement.

While only the United States put in place an outright ban on fresh beef from Brazil, officials in Canada and the European Union said on Friday they had rejected some shipments of Brazilian beef in recent months.

The EU cited issues with Shiga toxin-producing E.coli in beef as well as salmonella in poultry.

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