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China suspends poultry imports from second U.S. plant over COVID-19, industry group says

CHICAGO (Reuters) - China has suspended imports from an OK Foods poultry plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, because of coronavirus cases among workers, the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said on Tuesday.

China, the world’s top meat importer, has blocked products from some plants in foreign countries as part of an all-out effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

The OK Foods plant is the second U.S. poultry facility to be blocked because of an outbreak among employees, after Beijing suspended imports from a Tyson Foods Inc TSN.N plant in June.

“We don’t think that either one of these two are justified, especially considering the fact that the virus cannot be transmitted in poultry meat,” said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

Chinese customs authority GACC suspended imports from the OK Foods facility, he said.

OK Foods, owned by Mexico's Industrias Bachoco BACHOCOB.MX, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Arkansas plant became ineligible to ship products to China on Sept. 13, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Sept. 13 suspension was included on a list of recent changes to approved meat imports published on Sept. 15 on the website of China’s General Administration of Customs.

Since the start of the pandemic, 234 plant workers had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Aug. 31, the Arkansas Department of Health said. The facility no longer has more than five active cases, according to the department, which publishes outbreak data on its website.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler

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