The UK ends strict controls for beef and poultry from Brazil
The UK has lifted reinforced inspections on meat products from Brazil after analyzing the country’s control system.
The decision covers consignments of beef, poultry, and meat products and preparations exported from Brazil to England, Scotland, and Wales. It comes after an audit of Brazil’s sanitary and phytosanitary controls.
Following allegations of fraud in Brazil in 2017 during Operation Carne Fraca, measures were implemented for enhanced checks on certain imported animal products.
For beef and poultry meat products from Brazil, exports to Great Britain no longer need enhanced pre- and post-import testing for Salmonella or the added attestation attached to health certificates confirming Salmonella sampling, methods of analysis used, and results.
The number of microbiological non-compliances in Brazilian poultry products was three in 2020, five in 2021, and four between January and October 2022. In 2022, Brazil exported U.S. $282.2 million in poultry meat and around $134.5 million in beef to the UK. Since Brexit, Brazilian agricultural exports to the UK have increased by 67 percent, reaching $1.8 billion in 2022.
A report sets out the conclusions and recommendations of the audit led by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in October 2022. The visit reviewed the enhanced Salmonella checks in place for exports of poultry meat and of poultry and beef meat products and preparations.
Post-import physical checks for poultry and beef products will be reduced from 100 percent physical and 20 percent microbiological sampling. Brazil can now re-list certain poultry and beef sites for export to Great Britain.
Auditors visited central and regional authorities, two certification centers, eight slaughterhouses, four other businesses, two farms, and four laboratories. The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply (MAPA) leads official controls and certification of exports of animals and animal products. The Department of Inspection of Animal Products (DIPOA) is responsible for managing the Brazilian Federal Inspection Service (SIF).
Main audit findings
Brazilian authorities have made “significant” progress in correcting the systemic failings in the framework of controls and their application that led to enhanced Salmonella controls. According to Defra, changes to legislation and a restructuring of the authorities have strengthened the regulatory oversight of exports and clarified accountabilities.
However, there was no consistent process for delisting establishments. One site informed authorities it had stopped production in 2020 and requested delisting. At the time of the audit, the list of approved sites for export to Great Britain, published by MAPA, still had this firm as approved, and UK authorities had not been informed.
In beef slaughterhouses, hygienic dressing of carcasses was not done effectively to minimize the risk of contamination, including the risk of Salmonella cross-contamination. Slaughter lines were overcrowded and required constant monitoring and corrective action, such as slowing the line.
The audit team was told it was a requirement that Salmonella samples in poultry taken for export consignments to Great Britain should be sent to official MAPA labs. However, some results reviewed by auditors suggested this was not always the case. There was also an “inconsistent” understanding and application of Salmonella testing requirements, depending on the frequency of export and product type.
Several pieces of machinery in poultry plants were not cleaned adequately before production started, with feathers and blood residues from the previous processing shift found.
Several recommendations were made around contingency planning and written procedures; delisting establishments; official controls on approved sites; Salmonella controls; and lab capability and microbiological testing.
One recommendation covered the need for plans to ensure sufficient resources are available to undertake inspections at the required frequency, even if changes in risk levels lead to added demand. Another mentioned health marking of beef carcasses being applied inconsistently. In some cases, it was only put on the packaging, not the carcass.
Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have called for evidence of the UK joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Responses will inform FSS and the FSA advice to the Department for Business and Trade, contributing to a report as part of the parliamentary scrutiny process on the Free Trade Agreement. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 10.
Views are wanted on whether and to what extent human health may be affected regarding food safety and nutrition because of provisions in the CPTPP related to trade in agricultural products.