At their spring meeting, the Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) Board of Directors issued a renewed call for the reinstatement of Country of Origin labeling following the breaking news over extensive corruption involving the Brazilian meat-packing giant, JBS and BRF, the largest poultry packager in the world. The Board also called for the imposition of a ban on importation of product from Brazil pending the results of further investigation by Brazilian authorities.
Press reports said Brazilian authorities recently conducted extensive undercover investigations in packing plants in Brazil controlled by the two entities, which uncovered the bribery of health inspectors in which payments were made to avoid health inspections; the addition of cardboard and potatoes to some of the products produced; and the use of a cancer-causing acid on some products so that they could acquire the Brazilian stamp of approval despite being rotten or of questionable origin.
NeFU 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.”
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 was also concerned about the potential risk of reintroducing Hoof and Mouth disease into the United States. Hoof and Mouth Disease was eradicated in the United States in the l920s, but remains endemic in South American herds. Recently the United States relaxed impositions on the importation of fresh and frozen meat from regional states in Brazil which are free of Hoof and Mouth, but the corruption uncovered by Brazilian authorities in the investigation of JBS should cause USDA to reconsider the risks and the potential horrific costs to the American livestock industry should Hoof and Mouth Disease reappear in the United States.
Nebraska Farmers Union is also urging our Congressional Delegation to support Montana Senator Jon Tester’s bill which would immediately impose a 120 day moratorium on the importation of Brazilian into the United States.