Meat suppliers have hit out at the National Farmers Union, which persuaded Asda to stop stocking Brazilian beef in its stores last week. The NFU claimed that the lack of traceability on Brazilian meat stocked by Asda posed a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) risk for the UK.
Doug Brydges, president of the International Meat Trade Association (ITMA), said these were false accusations from the farming community. "Brazilian beef fills a gap in the market as we are seeing cutbacks of 10% in EU production as a result of CAP reform. Beef prices as a result have risen by 5-6% in the last few weeks."
ITMA member companies have asked the ITMA to send out a fact sheet to the press on the matter to ensure they are aware of the views of EU scientists and animal health experts in the UK.
Brydges added: "Brazil has a long history of exporting fresh bovine meat to the EU and there is no indication that Brazilian beef has ever been responsible for the transmission of the disease causing agents. It is impossible for FMD to spread via boneless beef where the pH value falls below pH6."
Asda claimed it decided to drop Brazilian beef from its shelves after the NFU raised concerns about it not meeting welfare specifications and farm assurance standards of traceability. "We had verbal assurance from the Brazilian beef supplier, but no certification. Regardless of the country of origin, our policy is clear - we always try to apply a level playing field in these areas," said a spokesman for Asda.
"This ensures that the same high standards are adhered to by all our suppliers regardless of where they are based."
Asda added that Brazilian product accounts for less than 1% of its total beef sales. Around 80% of Asda's beef is bought from UK suppliers and 19.26% from the Ireland.
Meurig Raymond, NFU deputy president, said the meeting with Asda this week had been a success. "Asda were very embarrassed and apologetic and have said it won't happen again. They've given us assurances that any South American beef would have full traceability and be produced to the same standards."
With regard to the FMD threat he said: "We argued the case that if there isn't traceability how do we know that it doesn't carry a risk? We could be opening ourselves up to another outbreak."