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EU says Brazil agrees to step up meat safety checks

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Friday that Brazil had agreed to step up safety checks on its meat exports, noting the U.S. decision to ban fresh beef from the South American country.

The United States suspended all imports of fresh Brazilian beef on Thursday over "recurring concerns about the safety of the products intended for the American market."

An EU audit conducted in May identified "systematic failures" in Brazil, particularly in horse and poultry meat and meat preparations and products.

Consignments have been rejected by the EU for several reasons including the presence of salmonella on poultry meat and STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli) on beef.

The EU asked Brazil to implement additional measures on June 7 and received a reply on Monday from the country's ministry of agriculture agreeing to put them in place.

A new audit will be carried out by the end of 2017 to assess the effectiveness of the measures.

"Should Brazil fail on such implementation, however, the Commission might have to take additional measures in order to protect the health of EU consumers," a spokesperson said.

Brazil's Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi prepared to travel to the United States on Friday to fight the import ban which hit shares of local meatpackers and revived concerns over the image of the world's largest exporter. (Reporting by Nigel Hunt, editing by David Evans)