Photographer: Diego Giudice/Bloomberg

U.S. Bans Brazil Beef After Blood Clots, Bone Found in Meat

Updated on
  • Move follows ‘recurring’ issues, Agriculture Secretary says
  • Bone, bacteria said to have been found in rejected shipments

The U.S. suspended all fresh beef imports from Brazil after finding shipments that included meat containing blood clots and lymph nodes, reigniting concerns over supplies from the world’s second-largest producer three months after a food-safety scandal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said late Thursday that the ban followed “recurring” safety concerns and will remain in place until satisfactory corrective actions are taken. It said the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service rejected 1.9 million pounds of fresh Brazilian beef imports since March, or 11 percent of the total, compared with 1 percent of shipments from other nations.

Consignments rejected for entry into the U.S. included meat containing the clots, lymph nodes as well as bones and, in one case, potentially harmful bacteria, according to a U.S. government official briefed by USDA officials who asked not to be identified as the information hasn’t been published. No one at the agency was immediately available to comment on the details. Brazil’s Agriculture Minister, Blairo Maggi, and a national industry group said the meat was rejected after abscesses were found.

“Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef.”

Spoiled Meat

Brazilian beef and poultry was temporarily banned by nations including China in March after federal authorities said they were investigating allegations that domestic producers bribed government inspectors to approve the sale of meat, even when it was spoiled. The fallout dented the country’s meat shipments and hurt the earnings of JBS SA, the world’s largest meat producer, which has denied any wrongdoing.

The U.S. is a minor importer of Brazilian beef, buying only 2 percent of the country’s shipments this year through May, according to Brazilian exporter group Abiec. The U.S. is the world’s top beef producer.

Still, shares of Brazilian meat companies fell Friday. JBS dropped as much as 2.5 percent in Sao Paulo while Marfrig Global Foods SA, the country’s second-biggest meatpacker, slid 2.8 percent and Minerva SA 2.4 percent.

Abiec said U.S. authorities found abscesses that stem from the reaction to components of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine. The industry had already notified the U.S. about the issue, Abiec President Antonio Jorge Camardelli said in a telephone interview.

“Unfortunately, industry and producers are penalized for a problem that does not originate in production and industry,” he said.

Corrective Measures

Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry will seek to reverse U.S. suspension, minister Maggi said on the agency’s Facebook page. He said corrective measures are being taken and Brazil is still committed to increasing exports.

"We have to understand we’re exporting meat to our largest competitor and there has been a big pressure by American producers since the time the U.S. Decided to allow imports of Brazilian fresh beef," he said separately in an audio message shared by an Agriculture Ministry press officer.

On June 21, Brazil suspended five meatpacking plants from exporting to the U.S, including facilities owned by from Marfrig, JBS and Minerva.

Marfrig Global Foods, Brazil’s second-biggest meat company, said in an emailed response to questions that it’s taking all the necessary measures to meet U.S. requirements in order to resume exports. JBS, the top producer, declined to comment while Minerva, which ranks third, didn’t immediately comment on the matter.

Producers in the U.S. applauded USDA’s decision. "We urge them to avoid similar circumstances in the futures by following more rigorous importation standard," the National Farmers Union said by email.

(Updates with details on shipment rejections in third paragraph, share prices in seventh.)
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