China Suspends Poultry Imports from US Over COVID-19 Fears

By Ryan Gandolfo, June 22, 2020

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On Sunday, China announced the temporary suspension of poultry imports from US-based Tyson Foods after hundreds of employees tested positive for COVID-19.

In a news release, the General Administration of Customs office noted Tyson’s most recent coronavirus outbreak, which Tyson Foods confirmed occurred at a facility in Springdale, Arkansas. Among the 481 Tyson employees who tested positive, 95% are reportedly asymptomatic.

NPR reported the halt on imports only pertains to Tyson Food’s Springdale plant, and that products that have already arrived in China will be seized by authorities. This is the US company’s third reported coronavirus outbreak at its facilities since April.

China’s move to suspend poultry imports comes despite the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health organizations stating viruses that cause respiratory illnesses need a mammal host to multiply, and no evidence suggests the coronavirus could be transmitted via food or food packaging. Below is an excerpt from WHO’s COVID-19 and food safety guidelines:

“It is highly unlikely that people can contract COVID-19 from food or food packaging. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the primary transmission route is through person-to-person contact and through direct contact with respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes.”

This week is chicken, last week was salmon. After Beijing experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases at the Xinfadi market, media reports noted that traces of the virus were found on chopping boards that were used for imported salmon. The alleged link between the virus and salmon caused supermarkets and restaurants to take salmon off their shelves, and European imports were suspended. 

China’s Center for Disease Control later found no evidence that salmon was the host for the virus, suggesting the virus was already present at Xinfadi market.

Chinese customs authorities also recently banned pork imports from a German meat supplier over coronavirus concerns after a slaughterhouse operated by the supplier’s parent company had 657 people test positive for COVID-19. 

[Cover image via Pexels]

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