Europe says it has “serious concerns” over supplies of Brazilian meat as the South American industry struggles to recover from a probe over tainted products.
The European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s executive arm, carried out a May audit in Brazil that showed persistent failures in the country’s regulation of the meat industry, according to a letter addressed to Blairo Maggi, Brazil’s agriculture minister. European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis is demanding improvements for checks on meat safety, without which Brazil will face the possibility of increased shipment restrictions.
“A range of critical deficiencies have been identified in most sectors covered by the audit, a number of which of a serious nature,” Andriukaitis said in the June 7 letter obtained by Bloomberg News. “These deficiencies concerned both food safety standards as well as official certification practices.”
Brazil’s federal authorities in March launched a food-safety probe against some of its biggest meat companies including JBS SA amid allegations of bribes to safety inspectors and sales and exports of tainted meat. While many importing countries have resumed trade with Brazil after initially banning some supplies, shipments to the EU still face restrictions. The bloc is the the second-biggest destination for Brazilian beef and is among the top buyers of its chicken. Increased European constraints would mean yet another blow for JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, which is also at the center of the nation’s latest political crisis.
“Should the evolution of the situation so require, I will be obliged to consider additional safeguard measures,” Andriukaitis said.
The office of Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry didn’t immediately respond to questions about the EU letter.
The European Commission said it carried out an audit in Brazil May 2 through May 12 that has raised "very serious concerns" about Brazil’s inspection system, according to the letter. The audit also found a failure to act on previously identified shortcomings going back as far as six years. Andriukaitis also said the ongoing news of corruption in the South American nation put into question the credibility of Brazil’s official guarantees on food safety.
“These findings, together with the questionable reliability of the guarantees previously received, cast serious doubts of the credibility of the control system as a whole, and undermine the confidence that the Commission needs to have in the performance of competent authorities,” Andriukaitis said.
Since the tainted-meat probe broke, Maggi has said repeatedly that safety procedures held by Brazilian authorities and companies are appropriate. Still, shipments from the world’s top beef exporter and largest chicken producer have been struggling. Brazil’s total meat exports to the EU fell 26 percent in May from a year earlier, Agriculture Ministry data show.
The EU will no longer accept Brazilian shipments of horse meat. The audit found “serious shortcomings” related to traceability of the supplies, hygiene conditions and treatment of horses with required veterinary drugs.
To restore confidence and mitigate risks for European consumers, Andriukaitis said the following measures were required by Brazilian authorities:
- Delisting all horse-meat slaughterhouses and exporters from the list of companies eligible to ship to the EU
- No further requests for additional establishments to be added to the list of companies approved for export to the EU
- The introduction of “100% systemic pre-export microbiological checks” for the export of poultry meat and meat products and preparations to the 28-nation bloc
- A health certificate to accompany all shipments of poultry and poultry products that states cargoes sent to Europe have been sampled to check for the presence of salmonella strands compliant with EU legislation
- Shipments with salmonella-tainted meat to Europe were part of the allegations that arose during Brazil’s police probe