Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“Today, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced that it has lifted decades old restrictions on the importation of fresh beef from Brazil and Argentina, countries with a history of the deadly disease of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in their animal herds. The U.S. has not experienced a case of FMD since 1929 and has successfully kept animals and meat from countries with a history of this disease out of its food system. Today, APHIS is abandoning that policy, putting our animal herds at risk.
“APHIS is, in effect, thumbing its nose at members of Congress who requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office conduct a study of the two proposed rules. That study has not been completed. These two rules were considered ‘significant’ by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). APHIS transmitted those rules to OMB on May 22, 2015. They were released on June 26. OMB can take up to 90 days to review ‘significant’ rules, but it rushed through the process. Food & Water Watch met with the OMB staff on June 12, arguing against the approval of the two final rules.
“Brazil and Argentina have checkered food safety records, as USDA has been forced on several occasions to suspend imports of products currently eligible to come into the U.S. for various food safety violations and for failure to meet our inspection standards.
“What is especially repugnant about the timing of this announcement is the fact that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is scheduled to meet with President Obama tomorrow. She is going to be handed this as a welcome present, reminiscent of the time in 2006 when the Bush administration handed Chinese President Hu Jintao the equivalency determination for the importation of processed poultry from the People’s Republic of China after a truncated review of that final rule by OMB.
The lifted restrictions on imports from Brazil and Argentina follow a disturbing trend of lowering food import standards, established by the recent attempt to gut Country of Origin Labeling, in order to pander to the interests of the corporate meatpackers lobby.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.