STC Number - 432

EU restrictions on poultry meat due to Salmonella detection

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Brazil
Supported by:
First date raised: November 2017 G/SPS/R/88, paras. 3.13-3.14
Dates subsequently raised: March 2018 (G/SPS/R/90, paras. 3.54-3.55)
July 2018 (G/SPS/R/92/Rev.1, paras. 4.57-4.58)
March 2019 (G/SPS/R/94, paras. 3.87-3.88)
Number of times subsequently raised: 3
Relevant documents: Raised orally
Products covered: 0207 Meat and edible offal, of the poultry of heading 01.05, fresh, chilled or frozen.; 16023 - Of poultry of heading 01.05:

Poultry meat and preparations
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health; Certification, control and inspection; Risk assessment; Salmonella
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In November 2017, Brazil raised concerns over the reinforced border testing controls in the European Union, which had resulted in increased reports of salmonella detections in poultry. Additionally, Brazil pointed out that distinct microbiological criteria for fresh meat products and poultry meat preparations were unjustified, as the two products were similar. Brazil argued there was incorrect risk management and communication, contrary to the principles of the SPS Agreement, and asked the European Union to provide scientific justification for these measures.

The European Union acknowledged the difference in microbiological criteria for Salmonella for the two product categories as pointed out by Brazil, indicating that the scientific considerations were based on the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health on Salmonella in Foodstuffs. The European Union stated that there was no justification to revise the criteria. The European Union added that all shipments from Brazil were subject to pre-export testing as a reaction to the meat fraud scandal, and on the basis of the results of an audit carried out in April 2017. However, despite the pre-export tests, the prevalence of Salmonella found in poultry meat consignments from Brazil at the EU border was close to 8% and this was a matter of concern. The European Union noted its willingness to continue bilateral discussions on this issue.

In March 2018, Brazil reiterated concerns over the reinforced border testing controls in the European Union, which had resulted in increased reports of salmonella detections in poultry. In addition, Brazil pointed out that distinct microbiological criteria for fresh meat products and poultry meat preparations were unjustified, as the two products were similar. Brazil explained that it exported a considerable volume of uncooked salted poultry meat and seasoned poultry meat to the European Union, which were both commercially defined as "poultry meat preparations". However, Brazil argued that the food safety specifications for salted poultry meat should be the same as those applied to fresh poultry meat, since their intrinsic characteristics relevant to microbial food safety were virtually identical. In addition, both products were uncooked, had similar muscle fibre structure and were not intended for immediate human consumption. Brazil queried the scientific justification for the adoption of different food safety criteria for these products. Brazil also indicated that over 95% of the notifications of positive results in Salmonella detection by the European Union's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feeds (RASFF) were related to Salmonella in salted poultry meat, with no public health significance. Brazil further highlighted that the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed was scheduled to discuss the delisting of Brazilian establishments which were currently authorized to export products of animal origin. Brazil emphasized that such a decision could have a negative result on Brazil's exports to the European Union and would constitute an unjustified barrier to trade.

The European Union acknowledged the difference in microbiological criteria for Salmonella for the two product categories as pointed out by Brazil, indicating that the scientific considerations were based on the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health on Salmonellae in Foodstuffs. The European Union stated that there was no justification for revising the criteria, and that they applied to both domestic production and imports into the European Union. The European Union added that shipments from Brazil were subject to laboratory testing at 20% frequency at the EU borders in addition to the checks that were requested to be carried out by the Brazilian authorities on each consignment before the export takes place. These controls were put in place last year following the meat fraud scandal and on the basis of the results of an audit carried out in May 2017. However, despite the pre-export tests, the prevalence of Salmonella found in poultry meat consignments from Brazil at the EU border was close to 7% and this was a matter of concern. The European Union informed the Committee that the European Commission had recently carried out an audit in Brazilian poultry meat establishments, and that the report was under preparation. The European Union also explained that the delisting of Brazilian establishments was a separate issue under consideration by EU authorities, as it related to recurrent Salmonella detection in specific establishments, despite requests for Brazil to take appropriate measures. In relation to the problems of risk management and communication raised by Brazil in the November 2017 SPS Committee meeting, the European Union underscored its transparent system, highlighting that information on detections in both intra-European and international trade could be found in RASFF. Finally, the European Union noted that its measures were consistent with the SPS Agreement, and further indicated its willingness to continue bilateral discussions on this issue.

In July 2018, Brazil reiterated its concerns over the reinforced border testing controls in the European Union due to alleged salmonella detections in poultry. Brazil argued that the European Union authorities had intensified microbiological inspection procedures for Brazilian poultry without technical or scientific justification. Brazil drew Members' attention to the changes in EU sanitary measures introduced after the WTO dispute on poultry meat in 2002. The European Union had banned the same two types of salmonella banned by Brazil with regards to fresh chicken, while for salted poultry it banned more than 2.000 types of salmonella, which were deactivated by cooking processes. The European Union applied separate microbiological criteria for fresh chicken and processed chicken meat even though both were intended to be cooked before consumption and had identical intrinsic characteristics with regards to food safety. Brazil had regularly submitted inspection reports related to the detection of salmonella in shipments entering the European Union, with investigations on the RASFF notification system in cooperation with European authorities. According to recent data from the European Union, only 326 of the 5,508 shipments of poultry meat and poultry meat preparations that had been sampled and analysed at EU border posts for salmonella detection were found to be affected by salmonella. Less than 10% of those cases had been related to the two types of salmonella that justified the rejection of the product or its withdrawal from the market according to Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005. Therefore, Brazil considered that risks to human health would not justify the measure in place.

The European Union recalled the EU criteria based on the 2003 scientific opinion of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to public health on salmonella in foodstuffs published in 2003, which took into account consumption patterns and behaviours and the risk of cross-contamination. The European Union stressed that these requirements were equally applied to domestic and imported products. Adding salt to poultry meat changed the tariff rate but also the legal status of the products in the European Union. Shipments from Brazil were subject to testing at 20% frequency at EU borders, in addition to pre-export checks that had to be carried out by the Brazilian authorities. The frequency of these controls had increased after the meat fraud scandal in 2017 and audits of the European Commission. According to EU findings, despite the attestation by Brazilian authorities certifying the absence of salmonella accompanying the consignments, the prevalence of salmonella in poultry meat detected at the EU border was still close to 6%, which was considered a matter of concern. The European Union concluded that both the microbiological criteria and the reinforced controls were fully justified and consistent with the SPS Agreement.

In March 2019, Brazil reiterated its concern regarding reinforced EU controls on Brazilian poultry meat shipments due to the alleged detection of several Salmonella serotypes. Brazil regretted that the European Union had maintained intensified microbiological inspection procedures. In 2002, Brazil had been granted the right to export salted poultry meat, classified as meat preparation, which had the same microbiological characteristics as fresh poultry meat. Brazil explained that Regulation (EU) 1086/2011 only required testing for two serotypes of Salmonella — S. enteritidis and S. typhimurium — as the least trade restrictive measure available to ensure the EU ALOP was met. However, Brazil regretted that the EU legislation did not apply the same reasoning to fresh poultry meat with added 1.2% salt, which had to be tested for all serotypes of Salmonella. Brazil recalled that data had been submitted at the July 2018 Committee meeting on samples that had been collected and analyzed by the European Union at the EU border for the detection of Salmonella since the reinforced controls of March 2017. Brazil argued that the EU measures lacked evidence and were more trade-restrictive than necessary.

The European Union referred to previous statements made at the July 2018 Committee meeting and to the criteria on Salmonella contained in the April 2003 Opinion of the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health on Salmonellae in Foodstuffs, which took into account consumption patterns and behaviour as well as cross-contamination risks. The criteria, which applied to both domestic and imported products, had initially been adopted in 2005, before being revised in 2011 for fresh poultry meat. Concerning the level of testing, a reinforced testing regime had been in place since March 2017, consisting of 20% of microbiological tests in addition to the pre-export certification system. The European Union further reported that an audit was planned for 2019, and that it remained open to continuing bilateral discussions.