Will Covid Start a Trade War Over U.S. Meat Exports?
by Martha Rosenberg, CounterPunch
June 26, 2020
On June 21, the official China website posted that products from Tyson Foods’ Springdale, Arkansas plant “that have arrived or are about to arrive in Hong Kong will be temporarily suspended by the customs department.” Two days earlier, 455 Tyson Foods workers living in Benton and Washington counties in which Springdale is located were found to be COVID-19 positive. Most were asymptomatic.
The meat industry and public health groups say transmission of a virus like COVID-19, SARS or MERS through meat is unlikely. But apparently China, whose love of eating palm civet cats mired it into a huge SARS outbreak, is less sure. Scientists also have their doubts.
Researchers writing in the EMBO journal found the enzyme called ACE2 would bind to the SARS virus whether derived from humans or palm civet cats. Proteins on the virus “utilized palm-civet ACE2 efficiently,” write the researchers.
Researchers writing in the Journal of Virology concurred. “The efficiency with which virus from both [studied] human outbreaks utilized palm civet receptor is consistent with the recent transfer of SARS-CoV from palm civets to humans,” they wrote.
Dung and Eggs Thrown
This is not the first time other nations have balked at U.S. meat. In 2007, a rumor in Taiwan that a ban on the growth promoter ractopamine, widely used in the U.S., was to be lifted caused riots. Chanting “We refuse to eat pork that contains poisonous ractopamine,” and “Get out, USA pork,” protesters threw eggs at police, soldiers and reporters and pig dung at government buildings.
Europe has banned U.S. beef for years because of the use of the hormones oestradiol-17, zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate in its production which the European Commission links to cancer.
Chicken has also been an issue. During the 2014 European elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “There will be no imports of chlorinated chicken from the U.S….I have prevented those imports for years, and I will continue to prevent them. No question.” Chlorinated chickens? Yes, the U.S. dips chickens into chlorine to prevent pathogens like salmonella which are ubiquitous in U.S. meat production.
And then there was BSE also known as mad cow disease. Within 24 hours of discovery of the U.S.’s first mad cow in 2003, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea and ninety other countries banned U.S. beef. Ninety-eight percent of the United States’ three-billion-dollar overseas beef market evaporated almost overnight.
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