CBS Local– The United States has banned all beef imports from Brazil, the Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.
The department immediately suspended all fresh beef imports from the South American nation after inspectors observed unsanitary conditions, animal health issues and other public health threats. The ban will not be lifted until Brazil “takes corrective action,” the agency said.
“Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers,” said Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture, in a statement, per CNN.
The Agriculture Department said it denied 11 percent of Brazil’s fresh beef imports to the U.S. since it began inspecting all Brazilian meat products in March. That figure is “substantially higher” than the 1 percent rejection rate from other nations, the agency said.
Brazil is the fifth-largest beef supplier to the U.S. behind Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. The South American country sent about 50 million pounds of beef to the U.S. so far this year.
The ban will likely hurt Brazilian business, as the U.S. is the ninth-largest market for Brazilian beef exporters.
“It took years to open the American market. It’s horrible news for us,” said José Augusto de Castro, president of the Foreign Trade Association of Brazil, to the O Globo newspaper.
Brazilian beef has been under intense scrutiny lately after it became known that certain meat producers were bribing inspectors to certify rotten or salmonella-tainted meat.
The European Union, China, Hong Kong, Chile, and Japan previously implemented their own Brazilian meat bans in March.
Brazil’s government responded to the backlash by closing three production plants and suspending export licenses for more than 20 meat-packing plants.