- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
United States on Friday followed Canada's lead in temporarily suspending
imports of Brazilian beef gravy, corned beef, gelatins and other processed
beef products as a precaution against mad cow disease and its deadly human
- The U.S. ban came less than a week after the Food and
Drug Administration quarantined a small Texas feed lot for violating strict
rules that forbid using animal feed that contains ground-up bits of cattle.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said although
there was no evidence of mad cow disease in Brazil, it was concerned that
certain Brazilian beef products may have come into contact with beef from
Europe, which has been hit with an outbreak of the brain-wasting disease.
- ``This decision is a temporary action pending the release
of requested data to complete a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)
risk assessment,'' USDA said in a statement. Further action would be taken
if needed to keep the disease out of the United States, which has never
had a case.
- BSE, better known to the world as mad cow disease, is
believed to have spread from Britain to other countries when the bones,
spinal cord and other remains of diseased cattle were ground up for use
in livestock feed.
- Nearly 90 people in Britain, France and Ireland have
died from or been diagnosed with the human version, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
- Canada is the leading exporter of beef and veal to the
U.S., with 345,069 tons shipped in 1999, according to the USDA. Brazil
shipped 50,376 tons of beef and veal to the U.S. in 1999, up from 33,534
tons in 1998.
- Brazil's ministry said canned and liquid beef exports
to the United States were worth around $82.5 million per year while sales
to Canada were about $5.5 million.
- U.S. Move Follows Canada
- Earlier Friday, Canada became the first NAFTA country
to announce it was banning Brazilian beef products after receiving information
that Brazil had imported live animals from Europe until 1999.
- Ottawa said it was suspending all imports of Brazilian
canned beef as well as liquid products such as gravy and gelatin, and would
pull the products from grocery store shelves.
- Mexico, the other U.S. trade partner under the North
American Free Trade Agreement, said it expected to issue its own ban on
Brazilian beef products.
- An angry Brazil criticized Canada for overreacting and
initiating a ban that would force similar action by NAFTA partners.
- Brazil's Agriculture Ministry on Friday said the bans
were ''scientifically unjustifiable'' since there were never any cases
of the brain-wasting illness reported in the country.
- ``Brazil's beef is absolutely safe, and there is no mad
cow in Brazil,'' said Marcio Fortest de Almeida, executive secretary of
the agricultural ministry.
- Brazil, home to the world's largest herd of cattle, is
locked in a bitter trade battle with Canada over aircraft subsidies.
- The USDA said it was working with Brazilian agriculture
officials to complete a mad cow risk assessment in Brazil as quickly as
- ``Once this data has been received and USDA is assured
that Brazil has taken sound measures to prevent BSE, the suspension will
be lifted,'' the USDA said.
- Brazil Slow To Document Safety Steps
- American cattlemen said they supported Canada's action,
mostly because Brazil has been slow in providing documentation of its animal
safety controls to keep out mad cow disease.
- ``We have no evidence that there is a problem there.
They simply have not been timely in providing data for risk assessment,''
said Chuck Schroeder, head of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
- Since Britain was identified as the first European country
to report the mad cow disease more than a decade ago, the United States
has banned imports of live ruminants such cattle, sheep and goats, and
their by-products from countries with BSE.
- In December, the USDA expanded its regulations to cover
all rendered animal protein products, regardless of species, from Europe.
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