Most U.S. trading partners have reacted to an outbreak of bird flu with narrow bans on South Carolina poultry, responding much differently than they did in 2014 when avian influenza was detected in a non-commercial backyard flock in Oregon. China, Canada, Mexico and others have only banned poultry slaughtered and processed in South Carolina or the county where highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in a turkey flock on April 8.
The European Union banned all U.S. poultry products on Friday, but it already restricts imports over using chemicals to sanitize chicken carcasses. The discovery of bird flu more than five years ago in a flock of guinea fowl and chickens in southern Oregon brought immediate and broad trade sanctions that Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Eggs Export Council, called at the time a “catastrophe.”
“I’m glad we’re having a much better global reaction,” Sumner said Monday. “The world better understands avian influenza, and I think our government has been effective in explaining to other countries how we respond to a case.” Highly pathogenic bird flu was detected in a turkey flock in Chesterfield, S.C. The flock had shown signs of respiratory illness, and 32,577 birds were destroyed to contain the disease, according to the USDA.
The H7N3 virus apparently mutated from a strain of low pathogenic bird flu that was confirmed March 10 in a turkey flock across the border in North Carolina. Since then, the low pathogenic strain has been found in other turkey barns in the two states, according to the USDA.
Canada on Monday banned poultry slaughtered or processed within 6.2 miles of where the highly
pathogenic strain was detected in Chesterfield County. China, South Korea, Japan and Mexico imposed bans on poultry products from South Carolina.
China recently lifted a ban on U.S. poultry imposed after the 2015 bird flu outbreak. The U.S. poultry industry hopes to fill a need for protein. China’s pork supply has been reduced by African swine fever.
Sumner said he was grateful for China’s response to the new bird flu outbreak. Poultry exported from the Port of Charleston in South Carolina will be allowed into China, he said. “We feel China has taken a very practical approach and for that we are most appreciative,” he said.
The EU since 1997 has barred the importation of chicken carcasses treated with anything other than water and steam to reduce pathogens. U.S. trade officials have tried to get the ban lifted. Sumner called the trade restriction a “bogus excuse” to keep out U.S. poultry.
Bird flu killed more than 50 million U.S. chickens and turkeys in 2015. Revenue from exporting broiler chickens dropped by $1.1 billion from the year before, according to the USDA. Export revenue from turkeys and eggs also declined.