Plan to block Brazil beef into Europe

Five members of the European Parliament, including the British chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, are planning a bid to get Brazilian beef banned from Europe amid fears it may harbour foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

The bid was planned even before the latest FMD outbreak in Britain and will be made when the Parliament reconvenes from its summer break next month.

Neil Parish, chairman of the European Parliament's agriculture committee and a Somerset farmer, said the European Commission is "in denial" about the safety of Brazilian beef imports, after it again refused an EU import ban.

Parish and four other MEPs will lodge a written decla-ration, calling for an import ban on Brazilian beef when the parliament returns in September.

The European Parliament heard evidence from the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) after an investigation into Brazilian beef, reporting virtually no system of traceability and the illegal removal of tags.

The IFA visited a total of 42 farms, ranging from suckler to beef farms, with herd sizes ranging from those slaughtering 200-300 cattle a year to those slaughtering more than 2,500.

None of the 15 farms on which an in-depth study was carried out had a full traceability system in place, the parliament heard. The IFA also reported finding evidence of a number of official tags being illegally removed.

There is also the suspicion that beef may be getting through from regions where exports are banned following an outbreak of FMD in 2005. It is suspected tag removal may be allowing banned cattle to be moved into other regions where exports are still permitted.

Last year the EU imported 333,000t of beef from Brazil, of which around 30,000t goes to the UK.