EU imposes Brazilian restrictions

EU bosses have announced new restrictions to be imposed on imports of Brazilian beef.

A decision has been made by the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health to restrict beef imports to only those from EU-approved holdings in Brazil.

The decision follows a visit by EU officials in which concern was expressed about the reliability of traceability systems.

As a result, SCoFCAH has decided it will only accept imports from farms that are registered for the EU that can guarantee an animal complies with the 90 day traceability requirements.

Liz Murphy, from the International Meat Trade Association, said it is estimated that the EU expects around 300 farms will be eligible under the system.

The decision comes into effect in January and the trade is anticipating a tightening of supplies from Brazil, although to what level, remains unclear.

Murphy said: "The size of farms in Brazil can vary so widely, its almost impossible to say what sort of impact this could have on supplies."

The move has been welcomed by UK farming leaders who have been calling for a total ban on Brazilian beef in recent months, claiming lack of traceability or control on animal movements.

Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "The NFU was among several of the European farming organisations that have been calling for a ban. Earlier this week I wrote to the Commissioner urging him to ban Brazilian beef imports after a failure to respect its previous commitment to take corrective measures.

"While our preferred outcome would have been a total ban, this decision goes a long way to addressing the unfairness of the current situation, where one of our main competitors is allowed to operate to lower standards than those expected by European producers, and will also provide further safeguards for consumers."

However, his comments regarding consumer safety have angered others in the trade.

Murphy said: "This is not a human health issue. All the debate is to do with foot and mouth and that's very important. There are too many people trying to muddy the waters."

She added the new restrictions were just further safe guards against FMD. "Maturation and deboning is the major factor, but we recognise you can't be 100% certain, so this is just reducing the risk further. However, its important to note that none of the FMD outbreaks in the UK have been due to imports from Brazil."

The Brazilian Beef Information Service said the decision laid to rest any myths that Brazilian beef represented any danger to health.

Rob Metcalfe, BBIS director, said: "This is a victory for science and common sense over back door trade protectionism and is a ringing endorsement of the safety of Brazilian beef.

"The new restrictions placed on farms are to do with traceability, not health issues, and the Brazilian beef industry has committed to make the new system work effectively.

"What is clear is that there is no justification for further campaigning by the anti-Brazilian trade protectionists.

"Politicians and farmers' leaders should discontinue this unhelpful practice which only serves to detract from the public's image of beef per se and is therefore counter productive in terms of promoting increased consumption of beef which would be to the benefit of all."