USDA Audit Shows Deficiencies in Brazil’s Meat Inspection System
As previously covered on this blog, Brazilian federal police raided several meat producers earlier this year for allegedly doling out bribes to inspectors to certify meat that was either rotten or tainted with Salmonella. Following the bribery scandal, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) instituted 100% point-of-entry re-inspection of all Brazilian meat products imported into the United States and – since then – has refused entry to approximately 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef products due to public health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues. In June of this year, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the suspension of all imports of fresh beef from Brazil because of recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market. The suspension of shipments will continue to remain in place until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action which the USDA finds satisfactory.
A newly released USDA report identified a number of deficiencies in Brazil’s meat inspection system that the Agency discovered during its onsite equivalence verification audits of Brazilian establishments conducted from May 15 to June 2, 2017. The audits were conducted to determine whether the country’s meat inspection system remains equivalent to that of the United States, with the ability to export products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and correctly labeled and packaged. Key findings of the USDA audit include:
Brazilian authorities failed to establish procedures to prevent conflict of interest between inspectors and meat plants,
Sanitation requirements in plants were not enforced adequately to prevent product contamination
Post-mortem inspection procedures were “inadequate” to ensure that only “wholesome carcasses, free of contamination and defects receive the mark of inspection.”
Brazilian authorities have failed to develop procedures to standardize the assessment of competence and performance of in-plant inspection personnel assigned to United States-certified establishments; and
Official methods of chemical analysis used by the government laboratories is inconsistent with FSIS requirements.
According to Carmen Rottenberg, the Acting Deputy Under Secretary at FSIS, the audit findings confirm the problems the U.S. had previously flagged and played a role in USDA’s decision earlier this year to suspend fresh beef imports from Brazil. Brazil’s authorities have pledged to take corrective actions. It remains to be seen whether USDA will view those actions to be adequate. If not, Brazil could potentially lose its U.S. equivalency status and all Brazil meat imports would then be suspended.