The Chinese government has banned all imports of U.S. poultry and eggs on reports of backyard and wild birds in the Pacific Northwest infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said Tuesday.
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine imposed the ban on imports of processed and unprocessed U.S. poultry and eggs, live chicks and hatching eggs. It was effective Jan. 8.
A highly pathogenic strain of H5N8 influenza was detected in December in wild birds and in a backyard flock of guinea hens and chickens in Oregon, along with separate H5N2 HPAI detections in wild birds in California and Washington State.
According to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the influenza virus has not been found in any commercial poultry flock in the U.S.
China is a key export market for U.S. chicken, turkey and duck products. From January through November last year, U.S. exports to China reached more than $272 million.
"There's absolutely no justification for China to take such a drastic action," said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. "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 regionalized approach, and have limited their restrictions to the state or, in some cases, to the county," he said. "We would have expected China to do the same."
China's nationwide restrictions could also have a negative impact on its domestic poultry industry, Sumner said. "Since the ban also includes U.S. breeding stock, China is cutting off its industry's main source of hatching eggs and chicks, which will curtail the industry's ability to replenish and maintain its production."
American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman said AFBF was in the process of reaching out to the U.S. Trade Representative and the USDA and "will support their actions to correct this situation as quickly as possible."
USDA already said it opposes some countries' efforts to limit U.S. poultry imports, noting that limitations violate World Animal Health Organization (OIE) standards. Stallman explained the issue further:
"Under guidelines from the World Organization for Animal Health, countries are allowed to place trade restrictions only on those geographic regions of concern, not an entire nation," Stallman said. "Avian influenza has been found in non-commercial locations among wild birds in some areas of Oregon and Washington State. China's restriction against all U.S. poultry and eggs is simply unwarranted."
USDA reminds consumers that no human cases with these viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally, and there is no immediate public health concern as a result of these detections.