USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) officials have suspended 17 Argentine beef plants from exporting to the US following a sanitary mission. The inspection team randomly selected 17 slaughter plants and discovered the plants failed to comply with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures, and in some cases, animal welfare guidelines.

Following the inspections, FSIS removed Senasa’s (Argentina’s Agriculture Department) authority to approve the 17 meat plants in question for export to the US. FSIS will revisit the plants in September.

The FSIS decision is seen as a setback for Argentina as it currently makes efforts to resume trading unprocessed beef in the US market. Argentine fresh and frozen beef was only granted re-entry to the US market in May, following a foot and mouth disease-related ban.

In addition, Senasa has suspended 17 plants from exporting to the EU on sanitary grounds. Collectively, the plants export 7,500 tonnes or 27% of Argentina’s Hilton Quota, reported to be worth US$14 million. This Hilton Quota is expected to be redistributed among Argentina’s remaining fifty eligible exporters. Senasa’s secretary, Miguel Campos, has announced measures to ease the restrictions on the 17 plants. However, the plants will remain banned from exporting to the EU until the next EU sanitary mission visits in 2004.