US - The US National Farmers Union, along with the United States Cattlemen's Association, have called on US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to withdraw the proposal to relax restrictions on imports of animal products from Brazil.
In a letter to the agriculture secretary the two organisations say that recent revelations about the state of livestock health and food safety standards in Brazil raise additional concerns about loosening restrictions on imports.
They say that Brazil has a long history of foot and mouth disease outbreaks among livestock, but now bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), another contagious animal disease, has been confirmed in Mato Grosso, a state in the region of Brazil from which USDA proposes to allow imports of animal products.
When BSE was first identified in the United States in December 2003, 65 of the US’s trading partners eventually imposed partial or full bans on US beef.
“The health and integrity of animal agriculture is extraordinarily important to rural America and to the US economy as a whole.
“Any threats to this industry deserve thorough investigation, and the events in Brazil warrant close scrutiny by the USDA before further advancing,” the letter says.
They USDA recently released correspondence with Brazilian food safety regulators about the country’s meat inspection system.
The USDA conducted an audit in early 2013, which found concerns about Brazil’s ability to evaluate food safety procedures. Brazilian regulators have begun to consider changes in standards and enforcement, but have not fully implemented these measures.
“Family farmers and ranchers would suffer tremendously if an animal disease outbreak were to occur in the United States, both from the loss of livestock as well as from consumers’ loss of confidence in our food safety and animal health systems,” the letter concludes.
“We look forward to working with USDA to ensure that our livestock industry remains strong and urge you to reconsider the proposed rule on Brazilian animal product imports.”
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