Jun 17, 2020 06:06 AM

China Starts Intensive Testing of Imported Meat for Coronavirus

(Bloomberg) — China’s customs authorities started testing all imports of meat for coronavirus, and officials in some major cities are also checking the products at domestic markets. A fresh outbreak of the Covid-19 pathogen was linked to a wholesale seafood and meat market in Beijing.

Port authorities are conducting nucleic acid tests on all shipments of imported meat, according to a trading executive with a major supplier who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. Customs officials have also started testing every consignment within shipments, instead of taking random samples, he said.

Testing is being ramped up after the new Beijing outbreak was traced to a chopping board used by a seller of imported salmon. Salmon was removed from supermarkets and grocery platforms in major cities. Customs officials were not immediately available to comment when Bloomberg tried to contact them.

China imported 862,000 tons of meat and offal in April. That brought total imports in the first four months to 3 million tons, up 82% from a year ago, official customs data showed. The imports came mainly from Brazil, the U.S. and Europe as China tries to cover a protein deficit after outbreaks of African swine fever slashed its hog herd by about half.

Beijing authorities have tested more than 2,000 samples of food items including meat, seafood and eggs, and they have all been up to standard, according to the city government.

The capital also closed 11 other markets and disinfected nearly 300 markets that sell products including vegetables, fruit, meat and fish, according to the city government. The city locked down several residential compounds after the reported number of infections exceeded 100.

“Buyers have not suspended imports as any suspension has to wait until an official conclusion on the virus, but some buyers may be cautious in placing new orders,” said Lin Guofa, a senior analyst at Bric Agriculture Group, a Beijing-based consulting firm. A crackdown on smuggled meat and expectations of less imported products in coming months have pushed up prices of meat at ports, Lin said.

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