USDA Says China Stopping Imports of Arkansas Fowl

LITTLE ROCK - Federal agriculture officials told members of Arkansas' congressional delegation Tuesday that China has stopped importing the state's poultry products.

Sen. Mark Pryor decried the decision, saying an "isolated incident" led to the ban. Pryor didn't say what the incident was, but birds on a Scott County farm tested positive for a low-pathogenic strain of avian flu in June.

"China is being unfair by banning poultry imports from our entire state," said Pryor, D-Ark. "Our products are safe, healthy, and nutritious. I'll be working with food safety and trade officials to resolve this issue as quickly as possible and reopen this market for our farmers. In the meantime, my family and I will continue to eat Arkansas poultry, and I know others in our state will do the same."

Pryor spokesman Michael Teague said the U.S. Department of Agriculture had sent to members of Arkansas' congressional delegation a notice from its Food Safety and Inspection Service that Arkansas poultry was being blocked, effective July 22. Wisconsin poultry was blocked that day, as well.

The restricted export list also includes products from New York and Virginia, plus certain items from Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas, based on the birds' dates of slaughter.

Arkansas is the nation's second-largest poultry producer, behind Georgia. China had also blocked imports previously over avian flu concerns.

"All poultry and poultry products shipped from the State of Arkansas on or after July 22, 2013, are ineligible for export (to China)," the USDA said in a notice on its food safety website that was dated Monday.

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said Japan banned Arkansas imports effective June 20; trade publications reported that Russia had also banned the birds and that state livestock officials had mistakenly told legislators last month that China had already moved to ban exports.

Last month, the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission said a chicken in Scott County tested positive for H7N7 low-pathogenic avian influenza. State agriculture officials quarantined poultry within a 6.2-mile radius.

Chickens can get avian flu from infected waterfowl or from contaminated water. Scott County was inundated in early June by severe flooding that killed the county sheriff, a state Game and Fish worker and two residents of a home that was surrounded by high water.

At the time the avian flu case was confirmed, the Arkansas Health Department advised there was no public health threat and that poultry that is properly cooked wouldn't spread the disease to people.

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