Northern Ag Network: BSE Confirmed in Brazil as Senators Call for Ban on Imports

Brazil, The world’s largest exporter of beef halted exports to China, their top customer, on Thursday after a case of BSE was discovered. The investigation of the case was announced earlier this week with Brazil’s agriculture ministry confirming the case shortly thereafter.

Brazil’s beef shipments to China were halted as part of the trade protocol between the two countries. The suspension is expected to be temporary although its unknown how long it will be. China accounted for 60% of Brazil’s beef exports in January so the suspension will start to be felt across the global beef market quickly.

Samples of the infected animal were sent  to the World Organization for Animal Health lab in Alberta, Canada, to confirm whether it was the classic form of the disease or its “atypical” version. An atypical case also generally means the animal contracted the disease spontaneously, not through contaminated meat-and-bone meal. Preliminary testing in Brazil indicated that the case was the atypical form of the disease.

Brazil last reported atypical BSE in September of 2021 with two cases confirmed. In that instance, China took three months to lift the export ban on Brazil. U.S. cattle producer organizations and lawmakers raised concern with the fact that the cases were reported by Brazil more than 2 months after they were discovered.

Legislation to Suspend Brazilian Beef Imports to the U.S.

The week before this latest case of BSE was confirmed, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) reintroduced their bipartisan bill to suspend Brazilian beef imports to the United States until experts can conduct a systemic review of the commodity’s impacts on food safety and animal health.

The Senators’ bill was originally introduced in November of 2021, following the detection and delayed reporting of the two cases of atypical BSE. The senators said, this has been a routine occurrence, with Brazil also waiting months or even years to report similar cases in 2019, 2014, and 2012.

“As a third-generation farmer, I know how hard Montana ranchers work to produce top quality beef that consumers can trust,” said Tester. “Folks shouldn’t have to worry about whether the products they buy at the grocery store are safe to eat, and that’s why we need to halt Brazilian beef imports until Brazilian producers can prove that their products meet our health and safety standards. I’ll take on anyone, at home and abroad, to ensure that Montana producers aren’t cut out of the market by foreign corporations who aren’t following the rules.”

“South Dakota ranch families work tirelessly to produce the safest, highest quality and most affordable beef in the world,” said Rounds. “Producer’s livelihoods are being compromised by Brazilian beef imports that fail to meet our country’s food safety and animal health standards, as Brazil has a history of failing to report, in a timely and accurate manner, diseases found in their herds. This poses a significant threat to both American producers and consumers. Consumers should be able to confidently feed their families beef that has met the rigorous standards required in the United States. Our bipartisan legislation would make certain Brazilian beef is safe to transport and eat before it is brought into our markets, neutralizing Brazil’s deceptive trade tactics.”

In a press release the senators commented that Brazil enjoys preferential market access on the global stage due to its designation as a “negligible risk” exporter by OIE. While rare, one-off instances of atypical BSE do not necessarily indicate systemic issues with the health of Brazilian cattle herds, repeated delays in reporting suggest an overly lax food safety regime and raise concerns about the reporting of additional dangerous diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, and Avian Influenza.

Tester and Rounds’ bill would ensure that Brazilian beef is safe to eat before it is brought back into U.S. markets by imposing a moratorium on Brazilian beef until a group of food safety, animal health, and trade experts has made a recommendation regarding its import status. The legislation is supported by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and R-CALF USA.

“The United States has some of the highest food safety and animal health standards in the world, and any country who wishes to trade with the United States must demonstrate that they can meet those standards. Brazil’s track record of failing to report atypical BSE cases is unacceptable, and we must hold all trade partners accountable without exception,” said Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

 “Put simply, Brazil is a bad actor in the global marketplace. Several countries, including China, banned the Brazilian beef last year following animal and human health scares in the country,” said Whitney Klasna, Vice President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “It is outrageous that we continue to accept the importation of beef from a country that is not interested in upholding the high standards and quality of the U.S. cattle and beef industries. USCA looks forward to working with Senators Tester and Rounds to push this bill to the President’s desk.”

“Our nation’s national security depends on food security and Senator Tester and Senator Round’s bill to protect the safety of our food supply by banning beef from Brazil, which has a history of noncompliance with our food safety requirements, will help ensure that only safe and wholesome beef is available in our food supply chain,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA.