Washington, D.C. — National consumer organization Food & Water Watch today asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to remove Brazil from the list of countries that are eligible to export meat products to the United States, and also demanded that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) refrain from declaring the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina to be “animal disease free,” which would eventually expand imports from Brazil of fresh meat products.
The request came in light of new information provided by the Administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Alfred Almanza, who told the media that the problem with Ivermectin-contaminated beef was not limited to one Brazilian facility, but was rather “a systemic problem”. Earlier this year, 87,000 pounds of Brazilian beef tainted with the veterinary drug were recalled in the United States.
“The admittance from Almanza that there are systemic problems in Brazil raises serious questions as to whether Brazil’s food safety system is equal to ours,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The USDA should not consider permitting an expansion of the types of meat products that can be imported from Brazil until there is an exhaustive review of that country’s animal health and human food safety systems.”
While some officials in the USDA have maintained that the tainted meat products do not pose an imminent public health threat, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General reported in March that excessive levels of the veterinary drug Ivermectin can eventually lead to neurotoxicity in humans.
Food & Water Watch’s letter to Secretary Vilsack can be found here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/brazil-vilsack-letter.pdf