Following news of extensive corruption involving the Brazilian meat-packing giant, JBS, as well as the largest poultry packager in the world, BRF, the Nebraska Farmers Union board of directors issued a call for a ban on importation of products from Brazil, pending the results of further investigation by Brazilian authorities. NFU also called on the U.S. government to reinstate country of origin labels on meats, the group announced Monday.
Brazilian authorities recently conducted extensive undercover investigations in packing plants in controlled by the two companies, which uncovered the bribery of health inspectors, according to news reports.
Payments were made to avoid health inspections; cardboard and potatoes were added to some of the meat products; and a cancer-causing acid was used on some products to acquire a Brazilian stamp of approval, despite being rotten or of questionable origin, NFU said.
Nebraska Farmer’s Union President John Hansen said, “In light of this food safety scandal, Chile, Mexico, Canada, Egypt, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland and the European Union have all banned the importation of Brazilian product, resulting in a dramatic decline in exports from the South American nation.”
“Those countries took decisive actions to protect their nation’s food safety and food consumers. The Trump Administration should act decisively and do likewise,” Hansen said.
The United States has not imposed a ban, despite unrest among consumer groups and farmers and ranchers across the nation. Sonny Perdue stated in his confirmation hearing that he would oppose instituting a ban because this could result in retaliatory actions by the Brazilians. But clearly, public health issues should have priority over any other considerations, including trade considerations.
In addition to food safety risks, the NeFU Board is also concerned about the potential risk of reintroducing hoof and mouth disease back into the United States from Brazil.
Hoof and Mouth Disease was eradicated in the United States in the 1920s, but remains endemic in South American herds. Recently the United States relaxed impositions on the importation of fresh and frozen meat from regions of Brazil that are free of Hoof and Mouth, but corruption should cause the USDA to reconsider the risks, NeFU said.
Nebraska Farmers Union is also urging the Nebraska congressional delegation to support Montana Sen. Jon Tester's bill, which would immediately impose a 120-day moratorium on the importation of Brazilian meat into the United States.