Brazil’s meat scandal fuels calls for U.S. import ban

Some U.S. lawmakers and farm groups are calling for a ban on imports of Brazilian beef in light of that country’s meatpacking scandal.

Montana Senator Jon Tester has introduced a bill banning Brazilian beef imports until the USDA can investigate the allegations.

Nebraska Farmers Union president John Hansen agrees. Hansen tells Brownfield the U.S. should follow the lead of several other countries that have stopped importing Brazilian beef.

“It seems like if we’re going to protect U.S. consumers, we ought to be doing something in a similar fashion—because they obviously do not have their house in order in Brazil,” Hansen says.

The Brazilian meat scandal is another reason to reinstate country of origin labeling, Hansen says.

“If (consumers) are the least bit concerned about food products coming from Brazil, if you have country of origin in place, they can at least identify and make that buying decision—or not—as they see fit,” he says. “But you can’t make an informed buying decision if you don’t have any information on which to base that decision.”

In addition to food safety, Hansen says his group is also concerned about the potential risk of reintroducing hoof and mouth (also referred to foot and mouth) disease into the U.S. through imports of Brazilian beef.

“We have suspected for some time that with the internal enforcement within Brazil between the areas that are free of hoof and mouth and those that are not, there’s just too much economic advantage and pressure to be gained by being able to launder cattle back and forth across those lines.”

The U.S. recently relaxed its rules on the importation of beef from regional states in Brazil that are free of hoof and mouth. But Hansen says, in light of the corruption uncovered by Brazilian authorities in the meatpacking scandal, USDA should reconsider the risks and costs to the livestock industry should hoof and mouth disease reappear in the U.S.

AUDIO: John Hansen

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