Brazilian Nelore breed of cattle

Nelore breed of beef cattle in Itapebi County of Bahia, Brazil. USDA photo by Scott Bauer.

Brazil has immediately suspended beef exports to China following the discovery of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in two separate domestic meat plants, the director of Brazil’s Department of Inspection of Products of Animal Origin (DIPOA) said in a statement. 

The cases were identified in meat plants in the states of Mato Grosso and Minas Gerais, DIPOA said. The two cases of atypical BSE were detected during an antemortem inspection in two cull cows of advanced age. The ministry said they were the fourth and fifth cases of atypical BSE in 27 years.

Atypical BSE develops spontaneously and is not related to eating contaminated foods. DIPOA said that no parts of the animal had entered the food chain.

Tracking transboundary and emerging diseases

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) lab in Alberta, Canada, excludes the occurrence of atypical cases of mad cow disease in assessing a country’s official risk status, DIPOA said.

“In this way, Brazil maintains its classification as a country with an insignificant risk for the disease, not justifying any impact on the trade of animals and their products and byproducts,” OIE said. 

China buys more than half of Brazil’s beef exports. According to data from the Brazilian Meat Exporting Industry Association, Brazil exported 490,000 tons between January and July this year and generated sales of $2.4 billion.

China meat market analyst Meat International Group (MIG) said the confirmation of atypical BSE in Brazil added more uncertainty to the Chinese beef market.

“Exporters in other countries are watching the situation closely,” MIG said. “This is likely to have a large impact on China’s supply in coming months … as Brazil’s share could produce a shortfall of 39 percent in imported beef supply. Global price increases for Chinese beef suppliers are likely.” 

Trace back to move forward: U.S. CattleTrace emphasizes animal disease traceability

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Colin Woodall said the cases do not pose a risk to U.S. consumers, and the beef supply is safe.

“Given Brazil’s history of failing to report BSE cases in a timely manner, we must remain vigilant in enforcing our safeguards and holding them accountable,” Woodall said in a statement. “The U.S. has the highest animal health and food safety standards in the world. We must make sure that all countries wishing to export beef to the U.S. continue to meet our standards—even a country with a small footprint like Brazil.

“NCBA encourages USDA to examine Brazil and to continue implementing science-based safeguards that ensure all imported beef meets the same rigorous science-based food safety and animal health standards as American beef.” — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor

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