JBS suspends Brazilian production amid meat scandal
JBS, the biggest meat packer in the world, has suspended production at 33 of its 36 Brazilian plants as other countries — though not the U.S. — ban Brazilian beef due to a corruption scandal, Reuters reported.
A Brazilian police investigation alleges that meat processors paid bribes for inspectors to turn a blind eye to unsanitary or irregular activity and has led to challenges on the quality of Brazil’s meat exports, Reuters noted.
JBS and BRF SA, the world’s largest poultry exporter, are among dozens of firms targeted in the meatpacking industry investigation by Brazil’s Federal Police, but both companies have denied any wrongdoing, Reuters added.
Egypt, China, Mexico, Canada, the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Chile have all instituted partial or full bans on Brazilian meat imports, Reuters said.
The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service has instituted pathogen testing and increased the examination of all shipments of raw beef and ready-to-eat products from Brazil, but has issued no ban. FSIS is also testing all lots of raw beef trimmings and ready-to-eat product from Brazil for pathogens and increased examination of all of those products.
Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee for agriculture secretary, said at his confirmation hearing on March 23 that he would oppose a U.S. ban because it could lead other countries to retaliate with bans on imports of U.S. agricultural products.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sent Agriculture Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young a letter seeking information about how USDA is handling the issue.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., announced he would introduce a bill to to ban the importation of Brazilian beef for 120 days.
“We must take decisive action to ensure no family in Montana or anywhere else in this country is exposed to the danger of deceptive Brazilian beef processors,” said Tester, who noted in the news release that he butchers his own beef on his farm near Big Sandy, Mont. “Montana producers raise the best beef in the world and are held to the highest safety standards. We cannot allow harmful food to come into our markets and endanger our families.”
“I applaud Sen.Tester’s decisive action,” said Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The safety and integrity of our beef products is important for ranchers and consumers and we cannot have this dangerous product flooding our markets.”
Tester has been a critic of USDA’s decision to allow the importation of Brazilian beef.
There have been reports that Australia and other countries are trying to replace Brazil as a supplier, but in Montana there are concerns that the Brazilian scandal could hurt the beef industry, reported the Billings Gazette, with calls to reinstitute country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for beef.
The U.S. repealed COOL when the World Trade Organization ruled that it resulted in discrimination against Mexican and Canadian producers.