China is reaching out to processors of meat, seafood and other food around the globe, asking them to provide proof of “mitigation efforts” to keep facilities free of COVID-19, industry and government sources tell Agri-Pulse.  

The danger to global trade, already manifested in China banning poultry from a U.S. plant, pork from a German processor. and beef from a Brazilian company, spurred the USDA and FDA to issue a broadly worded protest on Wednesday.

Theefforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said. “There is no evidence that people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export.”

USDA and FDA noted in the statement that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have released guidance to control the spread of COVID-19 in food processing plants. But they also stressed that the rules are to protect workers – not as a food safety precaution.

The statement does not mention China, but that's who it's directed at, sources tell Agri-Pulse. And it goes far beyond a reaction to China banning chicken from a Tyson Foods plant in Springdale, Ark.

“It’s actually much, much larger than that,” according to one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic. “It goes way beyond that into many industries. It’s globally – not just the U.S.”

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China, the world’s largest importer of many commodities from every corner of the globe, is struggling to reach many food-producing companies quickly, one source explained. Producers around the world of fruit, vegetables, beef, pork, poultry, grains, seafood and more are getting emails, phone calls and even text messages from Chinese officials.

“There is no justification for taking such action,” USA Poultry and Egg Export Council President Jim Sumner told Agri-Pulse recently when asked about China’s action on the Tyson plant. “There are no food safety concerns.”

But China appears to be convinced otherwise since the country announced recently that it detected the virus at a Beijing market.

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