China lifts ban on poultry imports from Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- China has lifted a ban on poultry imports from Minnesota enacted last year following a bird flu outbreak in Wright County, a move that reopens one of the state's largest foreign poultry markets.
China had been the state's No. 2 international market behind Mexico before the ban was imposed last November. Steve Olson, a spokesman for two poultry trade groups, said he believed Minnesota producers could regain whatever market share the ban cost them.
"It makes Christmas a little bit merrier," said Olson, the executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the state Chicken and Egg Association.
A Chinese agency that oversees inspections and quarantines ordered the ban last year after the H7 avian flu virus was detected in two turkey flocks in Wright County, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/ZrbAXp ).
Both flocks were destroyed and the premises were thoroughly cleaned. A few countries temporarily banned imports of poultry products from Wright County, but China banned imports from producers throughout Minnesota.
The ban took a toll on the state's 250 turkey producers, who lost a growing market for processed turkey, especially dark meat. Chicken producers also lost a market for chicken feet, which are considered a delicacy in China.
The Chinese government announced the lifting of the ban by posting a one-sentence order online Friday. The order, which was dated Tuesday, said China had completed its risk assessment and ended the ban.
Dr. Dale Lauer, a veterinarian with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health in Willmar, said the outbreak involved a so-called "low-pathogenic influenza." He said it never represented a risk to animal or human health, but that China imposed a ban out of an abundance of caution.
Bird flu emerged as a human health concern in 1997 when Hong Kong officials first detected the H5N1 subtype in local residents. Since 2003, the World Health Organization has confirmed 610 human infections and 360 deaths, of which 43 cases and 28 deaths were in China. No cases have been reported in the U.S., according to WHO data released this week.
Lauer said Minnesota has been testing flocks for bird flu for years because it can spread from wild birds' droppings. About 10 to 20 strains are detected each year, but most aren't considered serious enough to require being reported to the World Organization for Animal Health. The strains that need to be reported show up every two to three years, he said.