Brazilian Beef Still Leaves Bad Taste in Brussels

01 September 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) grilled the European Commission's Foreign and Veterinary Office on continued doubts about the traceability of Brazilian beef imports to the European Union.

The FVO presented a report to the Agriculture committee which found that 50% of the farms inspected in Brazil in their recent mission had either minor or major faults.

Smith, who has been active on the issue for a number of years, and with colleagues previously exerted successful political pressure on the Commission to ban imports, disagrees with the Report's overall conclusion that the situation in Brazil is adequate, and has backed the call from the Irish Farmers Association for a pre-emptive ban on imports until standards demonstrably improve.

Speaking after the meeting, Smith said:

"It is worth putting the victory the Parliament won on Brazilian beef in context. In 2007, 30,000 Brazilian holdings were authorised to export to the EU, and the EU duly imported 300,000 tonnes of Brazilian beef. Following the consistent pressure from myself and others, the total ban, subsequently replaced with new and tighter rules, saw the number of authorised holdings fall to 100, and the imports fall to 10,000 tonnes. But this has been creeping up, and today some 1,300 holdings are authorised, admittedly only accounting for 1% of Brazil's national herd but given the scale of Brazil still a significant potential for inequity.

"The new rules brought in after the pre-emptive ban are all good on paper, and I have no difficulty with Brazilian beef being imported to the EU so long as it demonstrably matches our standards. However, if the traceability is not watertight then the whole package is called into question, and I am not convinced traceability is watertight.

"The FVO report details the twelve inspections the FVO officials made, unannounced, of authorised Brazilian holdings chosen at random. The findings do not convince me that Brazilian beef has a clean bill of health.Three of the holdings had minor faults in their traceability, and three had major faults, so only half of authorised holdings had a clean bill of health and our consumers deserve better.

"The FVO is of the view that the faults were sufficiently inconsequential to merit the continuing importation of Brazilian beef, but it is clear after today's meeting that I and plenty others are not convinced. I will be continuing to pressure on this issue until it can be proven that Brazil meets our standards."