Following a proposal by the European Commission, the EU has agreed to ban all imports of bovine fresh meat from Paraguay due to serious problems with the control and supervision measures related to Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in the country.

The Commission said a recent inspection carried out in Paraguay by the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) found some serious failures in animal health controls, in particular concerning FMD. Failures were also found in the performance of the competent authority and in the export certification system of beef for the EU. In view of this worrying situation, it was deemed necessary to ban imports from Paraguay in order to protect animal health in the EU.

In the light of the EU experience with FMD in 2001, the Commission deemed it essential to send a strong message to Paraguay and other countries to respect their commitments to put reinforced controls and safeguards in place. The EU only imported de-boned and maturated beef (guaranteeing destruction of the FMD virus) from regions where strict animal health control measures were in place, while imports from other regions were not authorised.

In October 2002 Paraguay reported an FMD outbreak in an area not authorised for export to the EU and guaranteed that appropriate measures were taken. Despite these guarantees, the situation did not improve, resulting in the ban that has now been introduced. The latest inspection revealed insufficient controls in the production chain, including inadequate controls on the movement of animals between zones authorised for exports and non-authorised zones, so that the EU import requirements could in fact not be guaranteed.

Between January and October 2002 the EU imported 567 tonnes of beef from Paraguay.

The Commission said the decision to ban exports of beef from Paraguay will be reviewed when the Paraguayan authorities can give sufficient guarantees that the deficiencies have been dealt with. In addition, the situation will have to be checked again by an FVO inspection before exports to the EU can be renewed.