"Scares" around the quality of South American food will trigger a “red button” that results in a ban on products imported from that firm or region under safeguards built into the new Mercosur trade deal.
Officials have revealed that safeguards in the deal around the standard of imported foods, including beef, could see products thrown out of and banned from EU states within just 15 days.
The built-in quality rules were outlined by officials in Brussels and referred to as a “red button” that can be used if there are concerns or “scares” around a product.
Irish farming concerns centre around the tens of thousands of tonnes of South American beef that will end up alongside Irish steaks in supermarkets, with claims the meat will be substandard.
EU officials, involved in the deal's negotiation, insisted that South American businesses were “not insane” and exporters there wanted to keep prices up and would not exceed the quota of 99,000 tonnes.
“They can't dump stuff on the market,” an official said.
Furthermore, food exporters would “need to stay” within agreed production standards, which are expected to mirror those operated in EU member states, including Ireland.
Inspectors from Brussels will be sent to the South American nations under the deal to scrutinise products coming into the EU.
All farms and states in Brazil, for example, would have to be granted access to foreign inspectors. Furthermore, any problems with imports could be shut down almost immediately, officials explained.
When they are in, there is a red button for when there are scares. And there are short deadlines [to pull out the product].
One official said South American firms would be required to withdraw products, such as beef, within 15 days if there was a food scare. And once out, it would be difficult to reenter the market.
“They don't want rotten apples that stain credibility,” said the official regarding the South American members of the Mercosur deal.
For the first time, strict climate action rules in the Paris Agreement will also be enforced and used as a way of ensuring the South American countries comply with environmental regulations.
Meanwhile, former president Mary Robinson says she has concerns the deal could further damage the Amazon, amid reports of rampant deforestation there being driven by global demand for meat.
Speaking in Dublin, she said:
“I think it is a legitimate concern. I haven't yet had a chance to study it properly.
"I do see that the Amazon is greatly at risk already and anything that puts further pressure on it is not desirable.”