CHINA – China, the world’s top meat importer, has suspended imports from an OK Foods poultry plant in Arkansas, USA, due to coronavirus cases among its workers.

According to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said on Tuesday The OK Foods plant is the second US poultry facility to be blocked after Beijing suspended imports from a Tyson Foods Inc plant in June.

“We don’t think that either one of these two are justified, especially considering the fact that the virus cannot be transmitted in poultry meat,” said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

Chinese customs authority GACC suspended imports from the OK Foods facility, he said. OK Foods, owned by Mexico’s Industrias Bachoco, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Arkansas plant became ineligible to ship products to China on September 13, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

“We don’t think that either one of these two are justified, especially considering the fact that the virus cannot be transmitted in poultry meat,”

Jim Sumner – president, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council

The Sept. 13 suspension was included on a list of recent changes to approved meat imports published on Sept. 15 on the website of China’s General Administration of Customs.

Since the start of the pandemic, 234 plant workers had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Aug. 31, the Arkansas Department of Health said. The facility no longer has more than five active cases, according to the department, which publishes outbreak data on its website.

This comes despite International Poultry Council (IPC) issuing a statement that there is no evidence that any animal food products including chicken and other poultry can spread the virus.

The IPC, whose members represent more than 95 percent of global poultry trade and 90 percent of production, cited science and evidence to support its position that the virus is not transmitted in either fresh or frozen meat and that consumers should feel confident buying and eating poultry.

There has not been a case of transmission of COVID-19 recorded via food packaging or food itself from the U.S. or any other country.

The detection reported was made by the Shenzhen municipality, not the General Administration of Customs China (GACC), which has been conducting all the COVID-19 tests on products at customs clearance.

Despite the fact that this report has not been confirmed by GACC, other countries might be considering banning imports based on that report.

In its statement, the IPC notes that according to science, the virus is a respiratory illness and its main route of transmission is person-to-person via respiratory droplets. It cannot multiply in food and it does not affect poultry.

Further, the detection of genetic material belonging to the COVID-19 virus is not an index of infectivity of the package or product sampled, according to the IPC.

Instead, it only indicates that the tested surface has come into contact with viral material. That material may not be alive, viable, and infectious.

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