US food companies hit by China ban
By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing and Krishna Guha in Washington
Published: July 15 2007 17:46 | Last updated: July 16 2007 04:13
China has banned imports of chicken and pork products from Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat processor, and six other American companies, in an apparent res*ponse to US complaints over tainted Chinese exports.
Authorities in Beijing have accompanied the move with the suspension of exports of mainly seafood products from 42 domestic producers, 17 of which were destined for the US.
But the move against Tyson, which follows criticism aimed at China by the Bush administration last week, has raised fears that a full-blown trade dispute may be brewing.
“China needs to avoid taking steps that appear to be simple retaliation and both sides need to make a big effort not to politicise the problem,” said Andy Rothman, China macro-strategist for CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. “Most signs indicate the Chinese government is taking this issue very seriously. China’s food safety regulations are basically a mirror image of those in the US. It is just a matter of getting enforcement up to snuff.”
US officials appeared to be taken by surprise by the Chinese action. A spokesman for the US Trade Representative said, ”We are looking into what exactly the Chinese concerns are and whether or not their actions are consistent with their international trading obligations.”
He added, ”Obviously we would go from there with respect to any kind of response.”
The spokesman said the US was seeking clarification from the Chinese as to what they are doing and why. The administration is also consulting the US exporters involved to try to see if there is substance to the Chinese claims. The US will likely make a fuller response in Monday or Tuesday.
Chinese exports of food and other goods to the US have come under scrutiny in recent months after a series of safety scares. The US Food and Drug Administration banned imports of some Chinese seafood last month until suppliers could prove they were safe.
Beijing has shut down more than 100 food-processing plants in recent weeks and last week executed the former head of its own food and drug regulator after he was convicted of corruption.
But the Bush administration last week voiced its strongest criticism to date on the issue with a stern warning from Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary, that China was responsible for the safety of its exports.
In apparent response China’s food safety administration announced late on Friday it had found salmonella in frozen chicken products sold to China by Tyson and in frozen chicken feet from US company Inter*vision Foods.
Ractopamine, a feed additive, was found in frozen pig ears from Van Luin Foods USA, frozen pork from AJC International and frozen pork ribs from Cargill Meat Solutions and residue of an anti-parasite drug was found in frozen chicken feet from Sanderson Farms, the agency said.
Imports from Cargill and Van Luin were suspended for 45 days while the remaining companies face unspecified suspension periods.
Imports of sausage casings from a US company listed as “Thumph Foods” – an apparent misspelling of Triumph Foods – were suspended for 45 days for containing ractopamine.
Imports of shrimp and fish from Iexco International Trading in the Philippines and Nachimex in Vietnam were also hit.
Cargill, Tyson and AJC International disputed the Chinese findings in statements.
In a sign Beijing is trying to address a growing international outcry, the agency announced it had temporarily suspended exports from 42 Chinese food producers whose products were tainted or did not meet food safety standards in destination countries, including the European Union, the US, and Japan