China recently implemented coronavirus restrictions on agricultural products, requiring exporters to sign documents guaranteeing that any products are free of COVID-19. Chinese Customs is now requiring a Letter of Undertaking of Safety of Import Food for any food shipments coming into the country. U.S. officials have emphasized the fact there has not been any evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through food or food packaging.
“The United States understands the concerns of consumers here domestically and around the world who want to know that producers, processors and regulators are taking every necessary precaution to prioritize food safety especially during these challenging times. However, efforts by some countries to restrict global food exports related to COVID-19 transmission are not consistent with the known science of transmission,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said in a joint statement. “The U.S. food safety system, overseen by our agencies, is the global leader in ensuring the safety of our food products, including product for export.”
Industry groups have also stressed that the coronavirus restrictions have no scientific basis. Guidance that has been issued by both the United Nations and the World Health Organization point out that there has yet to be any transmission related to food products.
“We are aware that the Trump Administration has objected to China’s actions and request that the administration continue to pressure the Chinese government until it reverses this ill-timed and scientifically indefensible trade barrier,” Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia said in a press release. “Our food system is the safest in the world, and the known science behind the transmission of COVID-19 is inconsistent with the Chinese government’s call for more restrictive food safety-related trade measures.”
Many American exporters have been apprehensive about signing the Letter of Understanding over concerns of liability. Several other agricultural exporters in the world market have agreed to comply with the coronavirus restrictions by signing the documents. So far, Tyson is one of the first U.S. companies to sign the certificate.