STC Number - 263

Import restrictions on cooked and frozen meat

Maintained by: Mexico
Raised by: Brazil
Supported by:
First date raised: April 2008 G/SPS/R/49, paras. 19-20
Dates subsequently raised: June 2008 (G/SPS/R/51, paras. 36-39)
February 2009 (G/SPS/R/54, paras. 24-26)
June 2009 (G/SPS/R/55, para. 179)
Number of times subsequently raised: 3
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 02 Meat and edible meat offal; 0202 Meat of bovine animals, frozen.

Cooked and frozen meat
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; International Standards / Harmonization; Undue delays
Status: Not reported
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In April 2008, Brazil noted its concerns about Mexico's restrictions on cooked frozen meat from areas free of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). According to the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, heat-treatment of meat guaranteed its safety. Therefore, there was no scientific basis for Mexico's decision not to permit meat from Brazil. This decision was also not in line with NAFTA practices, since both the United States and Canada imported this product from Brazil. Brazil requested details from Mexico on the criteria used for the evaluation of processing facilities. This was not the first time that there had been undue delays in Mexico's response to such problems; these had previously occurred in the sending of auditing teams to Brazil. Brazil was concerned with the unpredictable and protectionist practices of Mexico.
Mexico recalled that a bilateral exchange had taken place in August 2007, regarding a Memorandum of Understanding between sanitary services to cooperate in certain areas and address trade concerns. A monitoring group had met to discuss bilateral issues, and had agreed on the need for a technical subgroup to meet to discuss this issue, however the subgroup had not yet met. Mexico was now analyzing the detailed information on cooked frozen meat that it had received from Brazil, and would continue to work with Brazil on all bilateral SPS issues.
In June 2008, Brazil reiterated concerns about Mexico's requirements on the importation of Brazilian cooked and frozen meat. As recognized in Article of the OIE Terrestrial Code, cooking of meat completely inactivated the FMD virus. In addition, Mexico's ban on Brazilian cooked meat was contrary to the decisions of its NAFTA partners which imported cooked and frozen meat from Brazil. Mexico had sent a communication indicating the need to approve meat processing facilities in order to allow exports. Brazil had therefore requested further details about the criteria for these evaluations. The approval procedure should be done on a sample basis. Furthermore, there had been continuous delays by the Mexican authorities in sending an inspection group to conduct on-site visits. Brazil urged Mexico to apply the SPS Agreement provisions and OIE recommendations, and to eliminate its import restrictions, as cooked and frozen meat did not pose risks of transmitting the FMD virus.
Mexico stressed the positive developments in the consultations held with Brazil since the issue was first raised. The Mexican National Service for Agro-food Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA-SAGARPA) had requested more information about the companies that produced food and canned meat foods, including their official recognition, information about the national programme on toxic residues, and information about compliance with specific official requirements in force in Mexico. Imports could be permitted only after the fulfilment of those requirements. Mexico further raised concerns about Brazil's refusal to import pathogen-free eggs from Mexico. This restriction started in 2005, after the outbreak of low pathogenic avian influenza in the country. Mexico had provided information and requested an on-site evaluation, but no response had been provided by the Brazilian authorities.
Brazil contested the linkages between the restrictions on importation of Mexican eggs and the recognition of FMD-free zones in Brazil. Regarding Mexico's complaint on the restriction on eggs, bilateral technical consultations had been held, and Brazil was waiting to receive the complementary information that it had requested of Mexico.
Mexico reported that it was carrying out the necessary analysis on recognition of FMD-free areas in Brazil, but the existent Mexican official requirements needed to be complied with. With respect to exports of eggs, the information requested by Brazil would be provided as soon as possible.
In February 2009, Brazil recalled that Mexico was restricting access of cooked and frozen meat from FMD-free areas. Brazil considered that Mexico's restrictions were not based on scientific evidence since OIE standards were clear that heat treatment could be used to inactivate the FMD virus. Bilateral meetings at technical and even ministerial level had been held, but with no reaction from Mexican authorities. Brazil and Mexico had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2007 which established a technical group to discuss SPS matters. Despite Brazilian proposals to arrange a first group meeting, including requests at ministerial level, the meeting had not taken place. Brazil was disappointed at the lack of response, but hoped for friendly and expeditious consultations on the matter.
Mexico indicated that there had been some progress at a meeting on 19 September 2008. He reiterated that Mexico had received information on the toxic residue control plan, but on two occasions Mexico had asked for additional information, and this additional information had not been provided. Once this information was received and had been analyzed, the next step would be the analysis of the establishments interested in exporting to Mexico. Brazil requested a bilateral meeting on the margins of the SPS Committee meeting to clarify what information had been sent and what might be missing.
In June 2009, Brazil provided information on progress made regarding the export of cooked and frozen meat to Mexico. A bilateral working group on technical and agricultural cooperation between Brazil and Mexico had met, and it was agreed that Mexico would send an inspection mission between 15-20 October 2009.