China suspends imports of poultry from Tyson plant over COVID-19, customs authority says

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s customs authority said on Sunday it had suspended imports of poultry products from a plant owned by U.S.-based meat processor Tyson Inc that has been hit by the novel coronavirus.

The General Administration of Customs said on its website it had decided on the suspension after the company confirmed a cluster of coronavirus cases at the plant, which is located in Springdale, Arkansas.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company was looking into the issue, adding Tyson works closely with U.S. authorities to ensure its food is produced in full compliance with government safety requirements.

“It is important to note that the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, USDA and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food,” he told Reuters in an email.

China also suspended pork products from German pork processor Toennies last week following a coronavirus outbreak among hundreds of its workers.

China has stepped up its oversight of imported foods after a new cluster of coronavirus cases were linked to a sprawling wholesale food market in the capital just over a week ago.

Beijing began testing meat, seafood and fresh produce for the coronavirus last week and some ports were opening all containers of meat to carry out coronavirus tests.

On Friday, customs asked food exporters to sign a declaration that their produce is not contaminated by the virus.

Imports of U.S. poultry have surged since China ended an almost five-year ban on the trade in November 2019.

(This story corrects to say Arkansas in second paragraph)

Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Timothy Heritage and Frances Kerry