MEXICO CITY Mexico has suspended meat exports to the United States while producers check conditions at their plants to comply with U.S. sanitary regulations, U.S. officials and Mexican meat producers said.
Amanda Eamich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, said on Friday that Mexico informed U.S. authorities on August 29 it was suspending exports voluntarily.
"While they're implementing the corrective action that they identified, (last) Friday they said they would self-suspend and stop shipping all meat and processed poultry products to the U.S.," Eamich said.
The export suspension came after USDA inspectors in Mexico revoked exporting licenses from seven pork and beef processing plants in recent weeks due to concerns about hygiene.
The decision by Mexican authorities to stop exports of all meat, including chicken, will give inspectors time to inspect plants one by one on a systematic basis, said Enrique Dominguez, the head of Mexico's pork producers association.
"Mexican sanitary officials suspended certifications to export all types of meat to the United States," Dominguez told Reuters.
"In reality, what the USDA is doing is putting in doubt Mexico's sanitary inspection system," he said.
The United States and Mexico have been embroiled in disputes about food safety this year after U.S. authorities linked Mexican tomatoes and fresh chiles to a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1,300 people in the United States and Canada.
Only about 2 percent of total meat and poultry imported by the United States comes from Mexico, and the pork producers said they would continue exporting to Asian markets.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City and Christopher Doering in Washington; Editing by Walter Bagley)