China bans all US poultry imports after west coast bird flu outbreak

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

US poultry industry says China's blanket ban is 'unjustified'
US poultry industry says China's blanket ban is 'unjustified'

Related tags: Influenza

Chinese authorities have announced a ban on all imports of US poultry and egg products, including processed and unprocessed products and breeding stock, after the detection of avian flu in America’s pacific states.

In a joint-statement, China’s agriculture ministry and its quarantine service said the restrictions have came into force following recent outbreaks of the H5N2 and H5N8 strains of the virus in California, Oregon and Washington. 

China is the latest of more than 20 countries, including the EU and South Korea, to implement  either limited or full sanctions towards US poultry imports. 

With exports of chicken, duck and turkey to China totalling more than US$270m between January and November last year, according to industry figures, the latest ban will hit the American industry especially hard.

US hits back

In response to the announcement, the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has been swift to point out that the virus has not been linked to any commercial poultry flocks.

[The Chinese ministries] imposed the restrictions despite assurances by the APHIS that the influenza virus has not been found in any commercial poultry flock in the US​,” the US inspection service said in a statement.

“For China to impose a nationwide ban in response to isolated incidents of HPAI goes against international guidelines established by the World Organisation for Animal Health.” 

In its Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the intergovernmental body recommends that countries adopt a regional approach to HPAI—or highly pathogenic avian influenza—incidents to minimise its impact on trade.

Industry sees no justification

Jim Sumner, president of the US Poultry & Egg Export Council, added to criticism of China’s ruling: "There’s absolutely no justification for China to take such a drastic action. In fact, these isolated and remote incidents are hundreds if not thousands of miles away from major poultry and egg production areas​.

"Most all of our other trading partners have taken some sort of regionalised approach, and have limited their restrictions to the state or, in some cases, to the county. We would have expected China to do the same."

Sumner added that the ban on breeding stock could also hit China’s own poultry industry by “cutting off its industry’s main source of hatching eggs and chicks​”.

China has in the past stopped the import of poultry from some US states, and already banned poultry and poultry products from California, Arkansas, New York, Wisconsin and New Jersey prior to announcing the nationwide move this week. Several months ago, the country lifted a seven-year ban on Virginia over a single incident of less-contagious avian flu.

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