WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government of Mexico has voluntarily suspended shipments to the United States of meat and processed poultry after U.S. officials reported misgivings about the quality of Mexican food processing and inspections, an Agriculture Department official said Thursday.
The department's Food Safety and Inspection Service identified systemic problems with sanitation controls and record keeping during an annual audit that took place in Mexico between June 24 and July 31.
The voluntary suspension began Aug. 29, said Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for the service. About 2 percent of beef and poultry in the United States comes from Mexican producers.
"Safety concerns in multiple establishments were not identified by Mexican in-plant inspection personnel, demonstrating that Mexico's system to verify its plants were producing safe food in a clean facility was insufficient," Eamich said.
She said the audit report was not yet completed and would be posted on the agency's Web site within 60 days.
It was not known how long the suspension would last as Mexico works to improve food safety.
Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, said it had advised the department in late August of its suspicions about Mexico's exports of meat and poultry.
"While we are pleased that the Mexican government decided to suspend its exports voluntarily on Aug. 29, USDA should have taken more decisive action to protect American consumers from unsafe meat imports," said Wenonah Hauter, the group's executive director.