Euro-MPs say they are convinced that current restrictions applied by the EU to imports of Brazilian beef are justified.

Their comments came after a three-day fact-finding mission to that country by a total of 12 MEPs, led by chairman of the European parliament’s agriculture committee, Neil Parish.

The group met with politicians and traders, and visited a number of slaughterhouses and cattle farms. Mr Parish admitted that some were of a very high standard, but other left a lot to be desired.

“During a visit to a slaughterhouse we saw some of the deficiencies that had been identified in previous (EU veterinary) reports, including cracked floors and cattle arriving for slaughter without ear tags, which would not be acceptable in the EU. These lapses have to be addressed before we can ease the ban.”

Imports of Brazilian beef were suspended by the EU in February following a damning inspection by the Food and Veterinary Office. But a small number of farms have since been licensed to resume exporting subject to strict movement and traceability criteria.

Northern Ireland MEP Jim Allister said he was impressed by the sheer scale of the Brazilian operation. “There are some exceptionally well run farms and, while we saw one meat plant which would be the envy of anywhere, we also saw thousands of cattle without tags and no prospect of traceability. We also visited a meat plant where the hygiene standards were appalling.”

He therefore had no doubts that restrictions on Brazilian beef were justified. To allow unfettered access would be unfair to EU beef producers who have to meet higher standards.