Ban on Brazilian imports eyed after meat tests positive for salmonella

July 11, 2017 - 11:51 AM
A worker unloads beef meat from a truck in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — After some 500,000 kilos of meat from Brazil tested positive for salmonella, the Bureau of Animal Industry is considering a blanket ban on imports from the South American country even if this inflates market prices in the short run.

The wholesale ban is one of two options the BAI is looking at. The other is a ban on individual companies. It will submit its final recommendation to Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol soon.

In the meantime, the agency has suspended the imports permits of eight firms.

“We found out that … some of those shipments that came from Brazil are contaminated with salmonella so we stopped issuing permits,” BAI director Simeon Amurao Jr. said. “We could not sacrifice health for profit.”

The confirmation of salmonella, which causes food poisoning, in 162,000 kilos of beef and 336,000 kilos of chicken — specifically mechanically deboned meat — comes a few weeks after the US banned all beef imports from Brazil after sizeable quantities failed health checks.

In some cases, blood clots, bacteria and lymph nodes were found in the meat.

The government says it started testing as early as March but only discovered that infected meat had reached the country last month and Amurao admitted some may have found its way to the public.

The National Meat Inspection Service is tracing where the products may have been sold.

Despite this, both Amurao and meat importers insist infected meat is not a huge concern.

“If you have bacteria, including salmonella, in raw meat it’s not a very serious concern because you’re gonna cook the meat,” Jess Cham, president of the Meat Importers and Traders Association, said.

The group said people should worry more about the inevitable increase in prices in the event of a total ban on meat imports from Brazil. Although the South American state accounts only for six percent of the country’s total meat imports, a big portion of this is mid-priced beef.

Earlier this year, the Department of Agriculture banned the importation of poultry and poultry products from areas of Europe where a variety of bird flu had been reported.

Cham warned that banning Brazilian meat imports would hit fast food chains, particularly hamburger joints, as well as firms manufacturing hotdogs, meat loaf and the popular snack siomai.