UPDATE 2-China suspends pork imports from German plant after coronavirus cases

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BEIJING, June 18 (Reuters) - China has suspended pork imports from a plant owned by German meat producer Toennies, a customs document showed on Thursday, a day after the company reported a coronavirus outbreak among workers at the site.

Toennies said on Wednesday it had stopped slaughtering at one of its plants after around 400 workers tested positive for the virus.

China’s General Administration of Customs updated a list of approved meat exporters on Thursday to say the Toennies plant in Rheda Wiedenbrück was suspended.

Toennies was not available for immediate comment.

China this week strengthened inspections of imported meat, after a new cluster of coronavirus infections was linked to Beijing’s huge Xinfadi wholesale food market.

The suspension of imports from the German plant could pose a risk to other exporters, including major suppliers to China like the United States and Brazil where scores of plants have had coronavirus outbreaks among workers.

“This now seems like a real risk factor for the U.S., Brazil, or other exporters. Preventing recurrence of COVID-19 takes priority over keeping meat inflation in check,” Darin Friedrichs, senior analyst at INTL FCStone, said in a note.

China’s meat imports have surged this year, after a domestic shortfall pushed pork prices to record highs.

Chinese customs said on Thursday it had tested more than 30,000 samples of imported meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit between June 11-17 and all tested negative for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not aware of any cases of COVID-19 linked to meat or seafood or of any transmission from food or packaging, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Chinese officials also said on Thursday they had found the trading sections for meat and seafood in Beijing’s wholesale food market to be severely contaminated with the new coronavirus, and they suspect low temperatures and high humidity in the area may have been contributing factors. (Reporting by Dominique Patton; editing by Hugh Lawson, Jason Neely and Mark Heinrich)