NOBULL: R-CALF USA – USDA Prepares to Expose the U.S. to an Unnecessary and Avoidable Risk of FMD

USDA Prepares to Expose the U.S. to an Unnecessary and Avoidable Risk of FMD

Billings, MT – On Jan. 6, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) granted approval to six Catarina, Brazil, meatpacking plants owned by five firms to export raw pork to the United States. Today, industry news reports indicate that raw pork will be imported into the United States from Catarina, Brazil, beginning in March 2013.

Imported raw pork contaminated with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is believed to have caused the devastating FMD outbreak that occurred in the United Kingdom in 2001. The last U.S. outbreak of FMD occurred near Montebello, California, in 1929, and was caused by meat scraps unloaded off a tourist ship from Argentina.

According to Iowa State University, swine are a "special concern" for FMD because they are more susceptible to the disease than other species of livestock. The United Kingdom also identifies pork meat from FMD affected countries, especially bone-in pork or with lymph glands attached, as bearing a higher risk for transmitting the disease.

Brazil is not a country recognized as FMD free by either the U.S. or the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), yet both the U.S. and the OIE claim that Santa Catarina, the second most southern state in Brazil, is free of the disease.

Santa Catarina borders Argentina, which also is a country not recognized as FMD free. In 2011, Paraguay, which borders Brazil, reported an outbreak of FMD and a Brazilian journalist reported that after the outbreak, Paraguayan cattle were crossing freely into Brazil along a 254-mile stretch of the border and further reported no inspection crews at two border crossings.

"Our only means of preventing the introduction of FMD into the United States from raw Brazilian pork will be immediate notification by Brazil in the event of another FMD outbreak in that country," said Max Thornsberry, D.V.M. and Chair of R-CALF USA’s Animal Health Committee.

But therein lies the rub.

Thornsberry said the fact that Brazil took two years before notifying the U.S. on December 7, 2012 that it had detected a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) that had died in 2010 clearly demonstrates that developing countries like Brazil are not in the same league as the United States in preventing, detecting and reporting dangerous livestock diseases.

"The U.S. faces a real risk of introducing FMD from Brazil and USDA must start to realize that its system of relying upon foreign countries to prevent disease spread and introduction is badly broken.

"The USDA’s goal of free trade at any cost will soon cost the U.S. cattle industry much more than we can withstand and both cattle ranchers and consumers will suffer," Thornsberry concluded.

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. For more information, visit or, call 406-252-2516.