In the last couple of weeks, China has raised issue with Salmonella found in some raw poultry shipments and minute ractopamine amounts in some pork shipments. In all, seven products were sited.
Then last week, Taiwan halted some U.S. pork (24 metric tons) for ractopamine levels. Both Taiwan and China have zero-tolerance levels in place for ractopamine.
U.S. officials are trying to drive home the point that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved tolerance levels for ractopamine, and that 23 countries accept that policy.
The American Meat Institute has come forward and said, that the suspensions are not based on sound science.
"Products produced by the plants suspended by China were inspected and passed as wholesome and safe by USDA inspectors," says J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president. "U.S. food-safety standards are among the most stringent in the world and our pork and poultry products are recognized for their safety. These products could be sold in the United States and consumed safely by American consumers, yet China has rejected them."
AMI and others are urging China to reconsider its actions. In a nutshell, the driver behind those actions is unclear and the future remains uncertain. Of course, given the recent product safety woes involving China's product exports, and now its sudden attention on imported products leads some to speculate that the driver is more akin to non-tariff trade barriers.
"China's policies and actions to suspend these plants are inconsistent with the best available science," says Boyle. The pork and poultry products that have been rejected are safe, wholesome and eligible to be sold in the United States and many other nations throughout the world."
It's currently unclear whether either China or Taiwan has rescinded their individual holds on the U.S. pork products or whether they will reinstate such action in the future. "It's quite a challenge to work through the channels in these countries," says one U.S. animal-health expert.
Elanco Animal Health, has provided all of the safety and efficacy information to the two countries related to its ractopamine product. It is working with packers, government officials and others to provide whatever product information needed "to reach a proper trade resolution."
The animal-health expert future points out that "AMI, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council are all aware of the issue and are providing support and resources to resolve the issue in the best interests of the U.S. pork industry and consumers."
Pork exports to China are up 51.3 percent for the January/May 2007 period compared with 2006 levels. Poultry exports to Hong Kong/China for the January/May 2007 period are down 7.4 percent from last year. According to USDA, the United States exported 640 million pounds of poultry to Mainland China and Hong Kong in 2006. Likewise, the United States exported 113.5 million pound of pork to Mainland China last year.
As for the rest of 2007, with China's pork supply reduced by disease issues this year, it appears that the country will be more active in the export market as a way to fill more of its pork needs.