Beef still banned - No lifting of restrictions on corned meat until completely satisfied, says Samuda
Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda is adamant that the ban on the importation and sale of corned beef products from Brazil will remain in place in spite of assurances from that country's embassy that none of the 21 meat-processing Brazilian companies under probe has export arrangements with Jamaican firms.
This comes after the Brazilian government asked Jamaica to lift the ban, which was put in place after a report emerged suggesting that rotten beef and poultry were being used in the manufacturing of the popular food product.
Samuda said that no permission would be given for the sale or distribution of corned beef from Brazil until the Government is sufficiently satisfied that the products are safe for consumption.
"The Government has begun the verification process in keeping with established guidelines to ascertain that the products are free from contamination," the minister said.
On Monday, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries ordered an immediate ban on importation of corned beef from Brazil, where 99.5 per cent of the local product comes from. The public was also urged not to consume any. This stemmed from reports of several major Brazilian meat processors being under investigation for "selling rotten beef and poultry" for years.
Samuda noted that an extensive process was immediately launched after his ministry was made aware of the report, which included a probe in Brazil into irregularities in their agricultural inspection system.
"When we learnt of the threat, we launched an extensive process, including the import ban, the withdrawal of the products from the shelves, and testing," explained Samuda.
He added that Jamaican officials were also to visit Brazil on a fact-finding mission to learn more and that "the measures will not be lifted until we have received the all clear. We have to ensure the safety of the public," the minister declared.
The Brazilian Embassy in Kingston issued a statement yesterday, urging the Jamaican Government to lift the ban, stating that companies that export corned beef to Jamaica were not under investigation.
"The companies that export to Jamaica are not under investigation and operate within all licensing and health regulations. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture has a rigorous inspection service for animal products, with permanent auditing, monitoring, and risk assessment," the statement said.
On Wednesday, GraceKennedy, a major distributor of corned beef locally, which gets 100 per cent of its product from Brazil, also urged the Government to reconsider the ban after giving the assurance that none of the Brazilian companies they used were under probe.
GraceKennedy also said: "We have reviewed the information provided by Brazil's Secretariat of Animal and Plant Health (SDA) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA) and are satisfied that corned beef is not among the items under scrutiny. Further, none of the meat plants listed by the Brazilian authorities supplies corned beef to GraceKennedy Limited. The health and safety of consumers remain of primary importance to us."
The Embassy of Brazil said it would continue to work with the agriculture ministry for further clarification on the matter.
Other Caribbean countries - including Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and The Bahamas - also banned the importation of Brazilian corned beef after the news broke.