JBS says China blocks beef from US plant over detection of ractopamine

FILE PHOTO: Employees walk around at the JBS USA meat packing plant in Greeley, Colorado

By P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) -Meat processor JBS said on Wednesday that Beijing blocked U.S. beef shipments from the company's plant in Greeley, Colorado, because traces of the feed additive ractopamine were identified in beef destined for China.

Brazil-based JBS, the world's largest beef producer, said in a statement it is working with U.S. and Chinese authorities to resolve the situation and that no other JBS beef facilities in the U.S. have been impacted.

The suspension was effective Monday, according to a notice posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website.

Ractopamine is a feed additive used to boost animal weights. Its use has been banned or restricted in at least 160 countries, including the European Union, Russia and China.

In addition, China has suspended exports of meat and poultry products coming from Cool Port Oakland in Oakland, California, effective the same date, according to a spokesperson from USDA FSIS.

Cool Port Oakland is a cold storage facility used for perishable or other sensitive goods like food or medicine. The company did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

"China customs detected ractopamine in a batch of frozen beef omasum products exported to China from these establishments and destroyed this batch of products in accordance with their regulations," the USDA FSIS spokesperson said in an email statement.

USDA FSIS is conducting an investigation, the spokesperson said.

Earlier this year, major food safety, environmental and animal rights groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, seeking to force it to reconsider approvals of ractopamine, which they say is putting human health at risk and causing stress in farm animals prior to slaughter.

The restrictions sent Chicago Mercantile Exchange cattle futures slumping on Wednesday, analysts said, with the most-active August live cattle contract posting its biggest percentage drop since May 1.

(Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter and Tom Polansek in ChicagoAdditional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los AngelesEditing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)