USDA Pushes Paraguayan Beef Imports

How Beef From Regions Not Declared FMD-Free Gets Into the US

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Countries that mandate FMD vaccinations are not considered "FMD-free" even if no FMD cases have been reported. (DTN graphic)

The latest move to open wider the doors to foreign beef imports may soon add the country of Paraguay to the approved list. That is despite it not being considered "FMD-free."

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed allowing the importation of chilled or frozen beef from Paraguay in response to a request from that country's government. APHIS stated in its report: "We concluded that the overall risk associated with importing fresh beef from Paraguay is low and that Paraguay has the infrastructure and emergency response capabilities needed to effectively report, contain, and eradicate FMD (foot and mouth disease) in the event of an outbreak and to do so in a timely manner."

U.S. cattle producer groups strongly opposed the amendment over the allowed comment period.


The U.S. Cattlemen's Association (USCA) estimated U.S. producers would lose $12 million to $23 million each year under the proposed increase in Paraguayan beef imports. The group's president, Justin Tupper, noted there has been a near-10-year gap since the last visit of APHIS staff to Paraguay, which "does not inspire confidence in the strength of the country's animal health and food safety protocols."

While the World Health Organization has reported that FMD circulates in about 77% of the global livestock population, the U.S. has maintained FMD-free status since 1929. Tupper said that "opening our borders to risky trade is a gamble I'm not willing to bet on."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association's (NCBA) position is similar, noting that the amendment is based on 9-year-old data and site visits and that the country has a history of outbreaks of FMD.

"We cannot jeopardize the safety of U.S. consumers and the health of our U.S. cattle herd with outdated information," said NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kent Bacus. "The United States has the highest animal health and food safety standards in the world because we rely on the most up-to-date information and the highest science-based standards. USDA should not proceed with this application until a thorough review can be conducted with current information that demonstrates Paraguay's equivalence in animal health and food safety standards."


The prohibitions/restrictions on meat imports under Section 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 94 were intended to prevent the introduction of animal diseases, including FMD, African swine fever, classical swine fever, and swine vesicular disease. Under most circumstances, the regulations prohibit the importation of live ruminants and swine, and fresh (chilled or frozen) meat from ruminants and swine originating in, or transiting through, a region where there is known FMD.

Based on the current APHIS list, Paraguay is not among the regions declared free of FMD. If this amendment passes, however, Paraguay will join three other regions from which importation of chilled or frozen beef is already allowed, even though they are not considered FMD-free: Uruguay, Northern Argentina and Brazil.

A country that vaccinates against FMD is not considered "FMD-free" under the rules. As a result, a country may not be on the FMD-free list, even if it has not had a case of FMD. The position of the U.S. is that a country that vaccinates for FMD is not free of the disease. In the case of Paraguay, the last reported case of FMD was in 2012.

If Paraguay is allowed under the amended rule to export beef to the U.S., conditions would include:

-- The meat comes from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the exporting region.

-- FMD has not been diagnosed in the exporting region within the previous 12 months.

-- The meat comes from animals that originated from premises where FMD has not been present during the lifetime of any of the animals slaughtered for export of meat to the U.S.

-- The meat comes from animals that moved directly from the premises of origin to the slaughtering establishment without any contact with other animals.

-- The meat comes from animals that received antemortem and post-mortem veterinary inspections, with no evidence found of vesicular diseases.

-- The meat consists only of parts that are by standard practice part of the animal's carcass that is placed in a chiller for maturation after slaughter and before removal of any bone, blood clots, or lymphoid tissue.

-- The animal parts that may not be imported include all parts of the head, feet, hump, hooves, and internal organs.

-- An authorized veterinary official of the government of the exporting region certifies on the foreign meat inspection certificate that the conditions are met.


FMD is such common shorthand, and it's been so long since a case was reported in the U.S., that some people don't know why it is concerning. Here are some facts to put it in perspective.

FMD is a viral disease, considered highly contagious. It can affect cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, and other animals with divided hooves. It spreads quickly and can cause significant economic loss. The virus is found in living tissue, the breath, saliva, urine and other excretions from infected animals. It can survive in the environment for several months, according to a USDA fact sheet on the illness. There are seven known types and more than 60 subtypes of FMD. Immunity to one type does not protect an animal against other types or subtypes.

After infection, the first signs of illness usually appear within two to 14 days. These may include a high body temperature, vesicles that rupture and discharge clear/cloudy fluid, sticky foamy stringy saliva, tongue and mouth blisters, lameness, abortions, low milk production, heart disease, and death.

The FMD seen in animals is not the same as a similarly named illness common in young children: hand, foot, and mouth disease.

To see the health status of different regions, go here:….

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Victoria Myers