Ractopamine traces in beef threaten Brazil’s export relationships
By Bob Moser on 7/23/2013
Some in Brazil’s beef processing industry are growing increasingly concerned that the misuse of the beta-agonist ractopamine for cattle fattening may threaten the industry’s current and future export sales, with at least eight major export markets currently prohibiting its use, reports Valor Economico newspaper.
Sale of the additive for use in cattle was temporarily suspended in Brazil in November 2012, but evidence of it was found in beef product shipments from JBS SA and Minerva Foods to Russia in April, causing a flare-up between the countries and temporary suspensions levied on Brazilian beef by Russia.
In recent years a growing number of importers of Brazilian beef has formally prohibited the use of ractopamine, including Russia, the European Union, China, Iran, Egypt, Chile, Belarus and Kazakhstan. These markets accounted for nearly half of Brazil’s beef export revenue in 2012, which totaled $5.8 billion, according to Brazil’s beef processors and exporters association, Abiec.
Abiec has said it isn’t against any technology that can bring productivity gains to Brazilian agribusiness, but believes major gains can be had using technology that doesn’t involve growth enhancers. The association added there are weak points in the sales process of veterinary medicine in Brazil, with a lack of clarity over how all additives are tested and registered by the state, and a lack of accountability by the private sector to curb improper sales and use.
The Ministry of Agriculture said imported stocks of ractopamine are under surveillance and that it is watching out for smuggling or black market trade.
JBS and Minerva declined to comment on the case for this story. American veterinary firm Elanco, which was approved in July 2012 to sell growth additives with ractopamine for cattle, told the newspaper it is selling the additive for use in swine (permitted in Brazil) but not in cattle.
Use of ractopamine with cattle in Brazil was approved in late 2011 by the Ministry of Agriculture, which in June 2012 approved the use of two beta-agonists: ractopamine from Elanco, and zilpaterol hydrochloride from American manufacturer MSD Animal Health.
The government approval was quickly met with challenges by the European Union’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco), which asked Brazil to create a national system segregating cattle and beef destined for the EU, to prove it wasn’t from animals receiving ractopamine.
The Brazilian government made an informal agreement with additive manufacturers in July 2012, having them suspend sales until a segregation plan could be submitted to the EU in August. That deadline wasn’t met, and MSD Animal Health began selling its product in Brazil. The Ministry of Agriculture then suspended the import and marketing of the beta-agonists.
The cattle segregation plan, being developed by Brazil’s Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA), is said to be in its final stages and should be delivered to the Ministry of Agriculture this month. After the ministry evaluates the plan, which could help formalize additive-free beef sales to other export markets, it will re-permit the sale of beta-agonists in Brazil.