“An official letter asking for detailed information on the findings was sent to the Brazilian authorities on 5 March,” she said, adding that, depending on the response, “the Commission could take any additional measures considered necessary.”
Meanwhile, additional pre-export certification and re-enforced controls at EU borders for Brazilian meat exports, implemented since March 2017 over earlier concerns about Brazilian food safety controls, remained to ensure the safety of EU imports, she said.
These included suspension of imports from establishments implicated in any fraud regarding quality controls, as well as 100% physical checks of all consignments of animal origin presented for import and microbiological (laboratory) checks on 20% of such exports.
“Importers bear the costs of these checks,” the spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews. “Moreover, in January, a follow-up audit to May 2017’s on the meat sector [covering many premises, including previously ‘problematic’ ones] took place to verify the correct implementation of the corrective and additional measures committed by Brazilian authorities. Its outcome will therefore be of paramount importance to define the way forward.”
Her comments followed EU farm body Copa-Cogeca’s 8 March demand for stricter measures against Brazilian meat imports, after new cases of fraud in laboratories emerged last week.
“All options should be put on the table, including the introduction of safeguard measures for sanitary reasons,” said Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen.
He clarified action was essential as “we import substantial amounts of beef from Brazil”. But a Brussels-based Brazilian government official told GlobalMeatNews that beef was not involved with the current investigations, which were targeting three poultry production plants.
“The only one authorised to export to the EU was immediately suspended by Brazil’s ministry of agriculture, livestock and food supply (MAPA),” the official said on 9 March, adding three of the five private laboratories involved were also immediately suspended.
Moreover, MAPA has fully cooperated with the Commission, sending DG Santé (the Commission’s health and safety directorate) an “explanatory note” as soon as preliminary conclusions were released, she said. The authorities were further “available to assure the investigation’s findings do not pose any sanitary risk for European as well as Brazilian consumers”.
She assured GlobalMeatNews the investigations would not affect trade talks between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay: “Since the release of ‘Operation Weak Meat/Carne Fraca [low-quality meat]’ in March 2017, the Commission and Brazilian authorities have reiterated that nothing in the Mercosur-EU agreement will lower the high sanitary standards we both value.”
Instead, “the ongoing investigations only show Brazil can identify problems and how to punish individuals involved in wrongful activities,” she said, also highlighting MAPA’s 5 March note claiming: “Procedures implemented since the beginning of operations, including the suggestions from international partners, reaffirm the robustness of official control and the quality of Brazilian products.”