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Hundreds test positive at Tyson Foods plant in Arkansas as China suspends imports

Tyson chicken in a supermarket
A shopper looks at Tyson chicken products.
(Ramin Talaie / Bloomberg News)

Tyson Foods is looking into reports that China’s customs agency has suspended poultry imports from a Tyson facility in the U.S. after hundreds of coronavirus cases were confirmed among its employees.

A Tyson spokesman said Sunday that the plant in question is in Springdale, Ark.

“At Tyson, we’re confident our products are safe and we’re hopeful consultations between the U.S. and Chinese governments will resolve this matter,” spokesman Gary Mickelson wrote in an email to the Associated Press.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that we produce all of our food in full compliance with government safety requirements,” the statement added.

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Mickelson also noted that all global and U.S. health organizations, in addition to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of the coronavirus associated with food.

The announcement out of China on Sunday gave no details of the quantity of meat affected.

Tyson Foods, JBS SA and Cargill Inc. control about two-thirds of America’s beef, and the large bulk of it gets processed in a few dozen giant plants.

On Friday, Tyson Foods announced the results of coronavirus testing at its facilities in Benton and Washington counties, in Arkansas, and said that about 95% of employees who ultimately tested positive for the virus didn’t show any symptoms. Of the 3,748 employees tested, 481 tested positive for the virus, and 455 were asymptomatic.

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There have been several other coronavirus outbreaks at Tyson plants around the United States, including in North Carolina, Nebraska and Iowa.

In November, China lifted a five-year ban on U.S. poultry. China had blocked U.S. poultry imports a month after an outbreak of avian influenza in December 2014, closing off a market that brought more than $500 million worth of American chicken, turkey and other poultry products in 2013.


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