China wants a third party to verify beginning March 1 that US pork shipped to the country is free of a feed additive used to promote lean muscle growth, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing a US Meat Export Federation spokesperson. The move by China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of the meat and the third largest market for US pork came after Russia barred imports of US meat worth $550 million a year due to the same feed additive.

Officials from China’s quarantine bureau, which oversees the safety of food imports, declined to make immediate comment, while a spokesperson said the commerce ministry was unaware of the move. There was concern that China’s requirement for third-party testing could hurt US pork exports to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, valued at $886 million last year. “We have just been notified (by US suppliers) and are checking details with the quarantine authorities,” said a trader with a large State-owned pork importer in China.

China maintains serious concerns about ractopamine. The quarantine bureau in May rejected a consignment of US pork after tests found traces of the drug. Steve Meyer, president of Iowa­-based Paragon Economics, said that any move by China to ban pork imports from the US would benefit exporters such as Canada, Brazil and the European Union. There has been communication from the China regulatory agency with US officials that suggests this will be a March 1 requirement,” said Joe Schuele, communications director of the Meat Export Federation, a trade association for US meat producers.

China in the past barred imports from some US companies that shipped meat with traces of the feed additive. “We are still seeking specifics in terms of what China will accept in order to satisfy the third-party verification requirement,” he said. Lean hog futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange fell sharply on rumors of the Chinese action, and extended losses in after-hours trading. Concern also arises over the fate of pork on its way to China.

Source: Global Times Feb 2013

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