The parliament heard evidence from the Irish Farmers’ Association and the Irish Farmers’ Journal, which launched a joint investigation into Brazilian beef – reporting virtually no system of traceability, the illegal removing of tags and the use of illegal growth hormones.
Neil Parish, chairman of the parliament’s agriculture committee, said the EU commission was ‘in denial’ about the hazards of importing the beef.
The IFA visited a total of 42 farms, including suckler herds and beef finishers, with herd sizes ranging from 200 to over 2500.
None of the 15 farms on which an in-depth study was carried out had a full traceability system in place. Most of the farms placed ear tags on the cattle just a few weeks before slaughter.
The IFA also found evidence of a number of official tags being illegally removed.
Perhaps more concerning was the suspicion that beef may be getting through from regions where exports are banned following an outbreak of foot and fouth disease in 2005.
It is suspected ear tag removal may be allowing banned cattle to be moved into other regions where exports are still permitted.
The IFA also raised serious concerns after hearing about widespread smuggling of cattle from neighbouring Paraguay and Bolivia, where FMD is still a major concern.
An EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) report in 2006 also highlighted a number of concerns regarding ear tagging and medicines being used that are banned in the EU.
Last year the EU imported 333,000t of beef from Brazil, of which around 30,000t came to the UK. Around 60% of EU imports usually come from the regions hit by foot and mouth, but despite the ban, total imports have dropped by a mere 5%.
Mr Parish and four other MEPs will lodge a “written declaration” calling for an import ban on Brazilian beef when the parliament returns in September.
Mr Parish said: “The European Commission seems to be in denial about the safety of Brazilian beef imports.
“The EU requires its own beef producers to abide by stringent standards, particularly after outbreaks of foot and mouth and BSE in recent years. It is wrong both to consumers and farmers to force our own producers to comply with these standards while turning a blind eye to substandard products from Brazil.
“The agriculture committee was not satisfied with the answers being supplied by the European Commission, and we are calling a special meeting after the recess to which we will invite both the agriculture and health Commissioners.”