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Brazil to Avert More Beef-Import Suspensions, Official Says

The Brazilian government’s explanations of an animal death that could be attributed to mad cow disease will be enough to avoid any more suspensions of beef imports, an official said today.

Japan, China and South Africa confirmed to Brazilian authorities a ban on Brazilian beef imports, Enio Marques, head of the agriculture defense secretariat, said in an interview.

“We have sent information to every country that requested, and the response we got was more positive than expected,” Marques said by telephone from Sao Paulo. “We have talked to Russia, Venezuela and Egypt and I can assure that there is no suspension in any of those countries.”

Brazil has been the biggest meat exporter since 2008, according to the country’s Agriculture Ministry. Russia, Egypt and Hong Kong are the biggest importers, according to data from the Trade Ministry website. The Agriculture Ministry said Dec. 7 that tests on a 13-year-old cow that died in the Parana state in 2010 showed it carried the “causing agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy,” or BSE. The animal didn’t develop the disease, nor did the agent cause its death, according to the Ministry.

“After our explanations, the lifting of suspensions is just a matter of internal country bureaucracy,” Marques said. Brazil is still recognized “as having a negligible” mad cow risk by the World Organization for Animal Health, known as OIE, according to the organization’s website.

U.S. Response

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was notified on Dec. 7 that Brazil had reported a case of atypical BSE to the OIE, Matt Herrick, a USDA spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

“USDA has requested additional information from Brazilian animal health authorities, and once we have had an opportunity to review the information, we will determine our next steps,” Herrick said.

The U.S. imported 43.43 million pounds (19,698 metric tons) of beef from Brazil last year, which made up 2.1 percent of total imports of the meat, USDA data show. Beef imports from Brazil totaled 61.99 million pounds in the 10 months through Oct. 31, or more than double the 29.56 million pounds in the same period in 2011, according to the most-recent USDA data.

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