SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil’s third largest chicken and pork processor Central Cooperativa Aurora Alimentos has confirmed local press reports on Monday evening that Hong Kong had blocked imports from its chicken plant in Xaxim, Santa Catarina state, over coronavirus concerns.
The confirmation of the ban comes on the same day the privately-owned company agreed to test 11,000 workers for coronavirus starting on Aug. 21 at four of its plants, according to a statement from labor prosecutors in Santa Catarina.
Aurora, which last week was identified by Chinese authorities as the origin of chicken products with alleged traces of coronavirus, deferred to a statement from meat lobby ABPA for comment on the situation and the next steps.
“Regarding the announcement made by the Hong Kong authorities, the Brazilian Association of Animal Protein (ABPA) informs that it is supporting the company for the presentation of clarifications,” the statement said.
ABPA reiterated that there is no evidence the novel coronavirus is transmitted by food.
Aurora has not been formally notified of the Hong Kong decision, ABPA’s statement said, adding it may resort to the World Trade Organization to resolve the issue as the ban “lacked a scientific base.”
Under the agreement between Aurora and the prosecutors announced Monday, coronavirus testing will be done in two stages at intervals of 14 to 21 days at the four facilities.
Aurora will pay for tests using the RT-PCR method on workers at the Guatambu, Xaxim and two Chapecó units, according to the labor prosecutors’ statement. Some 2,279 Xaxim plant workers will be tested.
A total of 22,000 tests may be applied, representing 10% of the total tests done in Santa Catarina state the beginning of the pandemic, the statement said.
Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Chris Reese, Marguerita Choy & Shri Navaratnam
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