Philippines bans chicken imports from Brazil on coronavirus scare

Philippines bans chicken imports from Brazil on coronavirus scare

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines imposed a temporary ban on poultry meat imports from Brazil on Friday after two cities in China found traces of the new coronavirus in cargoes of imported frozen food, including chicken wings from the South American country.

Shenzhen city authorities identified the chicken as originating from a plant owned by Aurora, Brazil's third-largest poultry and pork exporter.

Brazil has the world's second-worst COVID-19 outbreak after the United States, recording more than 3.2 million cases and more than 105,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

"With the recent reports from China and in compliance with the country's Food Safety Act to regulate food business operators and safeguard Filipino consumers, the temporary ban on the import of chicken meat is imposed," the Department of Agriculture said in a statement.

It did not say how long the ban would be enforced. Brazil accounts for around 20% of the Philippines' poultry meat imports.

Aurora, which is unlisted, said it had not been formally notified by the Chinese authorities of the alleged contamination. The company said it takes all possible measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and there is no evidence it is spread through food. Brazil's agriculture ministry said it was seeking clarification from Chinese authorities.

The Philippines' Department of Agriculture assured the public, however, that chicken products currently in the local market were safe to eat.

The World Health Organization said on Thursday it saw no evidence of coronavirus being spread by food or packaging and urged people not to be afraid of the virus entering the food chain.

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Nick Macfie)