November 26, 2018 / 5:55 AM / 20 days ago

China's Xiamen Airlines puts pork back on the menu after swine fever 'misunderstanding'

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Xiamen Airlines has reversed a short-lived ban and resumed serving pork on flights after a “misunderstanding” about the measures being taken to tackle African swine fever, the deadly disease sweeping China’s pig herd.

FILE PHOTO: Pork for sale is seen at a stall at a market on the outskirts of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Hallie Gu

The airline, a unit of state-owned China Southern Airlines Co Ltd, said on Friday it would stop serving pork on flights the following day due to swine fever outbreaks in China.

However, the airline said on its Twitter-like Weibo account on Saturday its catering department “misunderstood” epidemic defense measures and that it had resumed serving meals with pork as normal.

“Our company has comprehensively verified that all pork products purchased by Xiamen Airlines have passed the quarantine inspection of relevant departments and meet food safety standards,” it said.

“Passengers, please eat without worry,” the company said.

African swine fever, deadly to pigs but not harmful to people, has spread rapidly through the world’s biggest hog herd, with more than 70 cases reported across Chinese farms since early August.

New cases were reported on the outskirts of the capital, Beijing, on Friday and it has also been detected in Shanghai.

The virus can survive in cured pork for several months and is only made inactivate if heated to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes.

Meat products processed in China have been found containing the virus, indicating that sick pigs are getting into the food supply.

Beijing has banned transportation of live animals from infected regions to try to stem the spread of the disease but the measure has left some areas with an oversupply of pigs and heavy losses for farmers.

China is the world’s top consumer of pork and produces about 55 million tonnes a year for domestic use.

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Paul Tait

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