China has banned all imports of U.S. poultry, poultry products and eggs amid recent reports of highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza found in the Pacific Northwest, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.
All poultry and poultry related products shipped from the United States after Jan. 8 would be returned or destroyed, according to the agency and the U.S. trade group USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.
The ban, effective as of Jan. 8, also applies to poultry breeding stock, which includes live chicks and hatching eggs.
From January through November last year, U.S. exports of poultry products sent to China reached nearly $272 million, said Toby Moore, spokesman for the trade group.
U.S. chicken exports to China from January-November 2014 was 239.768 million lbs, consisting primarily of chicken feet or paws. During that same period, China imported 55.923 million lbs of U.S. turkey.
The country’s import of eggs from the United States is marginal, according to industry sources.
“This move is somewhat hypocritical as there have been zero findings of high pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial poultry flock in the U.S. and, China already has a variety of avian influenza strains,” said Brett Stuart, chief executive of Global AgriTrends in Denver, Colorado.
China’s actions came after Hong Kong in late December suspended imports of certain U.S. poultry and poultry products after two separate virus strains were identified in Whatcom County, Washington, including H5N2 in northern pintail ducks, according to USDA.
This same strain has killed thousands of birds on two Canadian farms in British Columbia.
Additionally, the highly pathogenic 85N8 strain was confirmed in guinea fowl and chickens in a backyard poultry flock in the city of Winston, Oregon.
Neither virus has been found in U.S. commercial poultry. No human cases involving either viral strain have been detected in the United States or Canada, and there are no immediate public health concerns, said USDA.
China arrests over 110 people for selling contaminated pork
China has arrested more than 110 people, suspected of selling pork from pigs that died from disease, and confiscated more than 1,000 tonnes of contaminated pork in its latest crackdown on food safety violations.
The Ministry of Public Security said on Sunday the people were part of a network made up of 11 groups who, since 2008, had been buying pigs that had died of illnesses from livestock farms at low prices.
The meat was sold off to markets in 11 provinces, including Henan and Guangxi, or was processed into bacon or cooking oil for sale. The accused also bribed food supervisory authorities to obtain quarantine certificates, the ministry said.
Seventy-five of the suspects have been prosecuted. Several food quarantine staff have also been sent to prosecutors, said the ministry, which had been investigating the network since the end of 2013.
Food safety remains a major concern in China after a series of high-profile scandals that has involved tainted milk powder as well as donkey meat. The scandals have embroiled foreign corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and McDonald’s
In 2013, more than 10,000 dead pigs were found floating down Shanghai’s Huangpu river after the regional government cracked down on criminal gangs that had been selling abandoned carcasses as meat on the black market, fuelling overcrowding on farms.
China’s top food watchdog said last Wednesday food and drug safety was “grim” and pledged stronger oversight.