U.S. bans fresh Brazil beef imports over safety concerns

Article originally appeared in ReutersThe United States halted imports of fresh Brazilian beef on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said, after a high percentage of shipments failed to pass safety checks.

The USDA had “recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market,” after increasing tests on Brazilian beef in March, according to a statement.

The agency raised scrutiny on Brazilian beef and ready-to-eat products as a precaution following an investigation into corruption involving Brazil’s health inspectors that targeted meat companies JBS SA (JBSS3.SA) and BRF SA (BRFS3.SA).

JBS, the world’s largest meat packer, declined to comment on the U.S. ban.

The USDA’s action threatens the reputation of meat from Brazil, the world’s top exporter of beef and poultry, even though the United States is not a top customer. It also could boost domestic sales in the United States.

“Product was already on the water and that’s not going to be allowed in,” Altin Kalo, a U.S. livestock analyst at Steiner Consulting Group, said about shipments headed to the United States from Brazil via boat.

Since March, the USDA has rejected 11 percent of Brazilian fresh beef products, compared to the rejection rate of 1 percent for shipments from the rest of the world, the agency said. The shipments, totaling about 1.9 million pounds, raised concerns about public health, animal health and sanitation, according to the USDA. …

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