Brazil’s Agriculture ministry informed that it will send a team of experts to the US next week to seek clarification on methods used to test processed meat imports for residues, which have suspended export to the United States.
Brazil’s government imposed a ban on exports of processed meat to the US last week after a shipment of meat had to be recalled by meat packer JBS when US authorities said it showed traces of a medicine exceeding the limit.
Nelson Costa, director at the agriculture ministry’s department for the inspection of animal-derived products said the ministry requested details on tests used on that beef but a methodology provided by the US lacked key details.
“We have a meeting for June 7 and 8 in the US to discuss this,” he said, adding that he expected the issue would be resolved there and then and that exports would resume once the meeting ended.
In 2009, Brazilian exports of processed beef to the US summed US$ 223 million, roughly 5% of the more than US$ 4 billion worth of beef shipped from Brazil, the world’s top beef producer to importers around the globe.
US is the main importer of Brazilian processed meat having purchased in the first quarter 9.000 tons worth US$ 48.6 million.
Costa said the test used was initially developed to look for residues in the liver of cattle, and then later approved for tests on muscle tissue. He said there were doubts the test had ever been approved for use on heat-treated, processed meats.
“We want to know if some additive could interfere with the result. (The test) is not validated,” he said, adding chemicals even from condiments could change the tests’ outcome. In theory, it can change the result” he said.
The tests by US authorities on the JBS shipment showed the presence of Ivermectin, a de-wormer medicine used to expel intestinal worms, of between 10.3 and 14 parts per billion. The US limit is 10 parts per billion while Brazilian regulation permits up to 100.
Costa did not expect the ban his ministry imposed to have a severe impact on local meat packers whose main source of revenue is production of fresh meat, rather than processed meat such as canned corned beef with a long conservation period.
“I don’t think it has had a serious impact. They will be able to make up for it by sending their shipments later on,” he said, adding that local companies were confident of a swift resolution to the problem.
Meat packer Marfrig said on Monday it would begin shipping canned meat to the United States from its plants in Uruguay and Argentina so its shipments could continue. Brazilian plants would continue serving other destinations.