US Bans Brazil Beef Products
Including Gelatin Over
Mad Cow Fears
By Randy Fabi

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 variation.
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 disease (vCJD).
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 possible.
``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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