Several American trade groups request the federal government to immediately halt beef imports from Brazil due to the rising risk of mad-cow disease.
The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) cites reports from Brazil's Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply Ministry of two "atypical" bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases, according to Bloomberg. BSE, also known as mad cow disease, is a deadly neurodegenerative disease of cattle that spreads to humans through diseased meat.
The Denver-based National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and Billings-based R-CALF USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the U.S. cattle industry, demanded that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack temporarily suspend imports of fresh beef from Brazil due to BSE cases. In September, China and the Philippines suspended their imports of beef products from Brazil, the largest beef exporter in the world.
Brazil "has a history of corruption at the highest levels, and we are gambling with the health of the domestic cattle herd each time we accept a shipment of beef from Brazil," said USCA Trade Committee Chair Larry Kendig.
Lia Biondo, a livestock lobbyist with Western Skies Strategies, said this is the first time all three trade groups are warning about Brazilian meat.
In a Nov. 12 letter to Vilsack, NCBA demanded the USDA suspend Brazilian beef imports until an investigation can review the process of how Brazil's livestock industry detects diseased meat.
"It's time to keep fresh Brazilian beef out of this country until USDA can confirm that Brazil meets the same consumer and food safety standards that we apply to all our trade partners," said NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane.
"NCBA has long expressed concerns about Brazil's history of failing to report atypical BSE cases in a timely manner, a pattern that stretches back as far as 2012. Their poor track record and lack of transparency raise serious doubts about Brazil's ability to produce cattle and beef at an equivalent level of safety as American producers. If they cannot meet that bar, their product has no place here," said Lane.
For the U.S., Brazilian beef imports account for 15% of the domestic beef supply. If imports were suspended, this could result in an inflationary impact on beef prices at the supermarket already at multi-year highs.