The United States has banned all imports of fresh beef from Brazil, citing food safety concerns.
The punitive action on the fifth largest beef exporter to the U.S. will remain in place until Brazil takes “corrective action,” according a statement from the U.S. Department of Commerce on Thursday.
Brazil shipped about 152.7 million pounds of beef to the U.S. in 2016, up 2%. Only Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico exported more beef to the U.S. last year.
Since March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has been inspecting all meat products arriving from Brazil. U.S. officials refused entry to 11% of them, or about 1.9 million pounds, due to “public health concerns, sanitary conditions, and animal health issues,” the agency said.
“That figure is substantially higher than the rejection rate of 1% of shipments from the rest of the world,” it said.
The Brazilian government had told the U.S. that it’s working to address safety issues, including shutting down five facilities.
Brazil’s beef industry has been beset by government investigation stemming from charges of corruption. Earlier this year, Brazilian police raided scores of meat processing facilities that are accused of bribing inspection officials.
Among the companies under investigation is JBS, the Sao Paulo-based company that is one of the world’s largest beef processors. Federal authorities in Brazil charged that JBS allegedly bribed health inspectors to allow the company to export contaminated meat.
“Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a statement. “That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef.”
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