China steps up inspections of Brazilian meat after U.S. ban

A worker carries a piece of beef meat inside a butchery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s quality watchdog has intensified inspections of Brazilian meat imports following a recent U.S. ban on some beef products from the South American country and mislabeling in some meat shipments to China.

The United States halted imports of fresh Brazilian beef last month after a high percentage of shipments failed to pass safety checks. One of the main problems were abscesses, which Brazilian ranchers have blamed on vaccinations against foot and mouth disease.

Brazil is the top supplier of imported beef and chicken to China.

The Brazilian agriculture ministry said last week that the problems found in its beef exports to the U.S. were “only reactions of the animals when getting vaccines” and did not pose any food safety risks, China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection Quarantine (AQSIQ) said in a statement sent to Reuters.

China destroyed or returned over 350 tonnes of Brazilian meat in May, including chicken feet, chicken legs and beef, according to a list published on AQSIQ’s website on Monday. Some did not pass inspection and quarantine, and others did not have proper labeling.

China will take necessary steps if it finds food safety issues in meat imports from Brazil and notify the public in a timely manner, AQSIQ said.

China only allows imports of frozen boneless beef from cattle less than 30 months old from Brazil, while the U.S. had allowed more types of Brazilian beef to enter its market, the agency said.

China briefly suspended imports of all meat products from Brazil in March after police accused inspectors of taking bribes to allow sales of rotten and salmonella-tainted meats in March. It soon lifted the sanctions after Brazilian authorities clarified details of the police investigation.

Since then, AQSIQ said it has found mislabeling in some Brazilian meat imports and others with health certificates that did not comply with China’s requirements.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.