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Tyson’s Virus Transparency Made It Vulnerable to China Ban

imageCommodities17 hours ago (Jun 22, 2020 08:36PM ET)

(C) Bloomberg. Cuts of imported Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. beef sit inside a box at the Suzhou Huadong Foods Ltd. cold storage facility in Suzhou, China, on Saturday, July 7, 2018. China’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods struck just as one of its biggest meat importers was rushing a shipment from California through Shanghai customs. Now Suzhou Huadong is saddled with a stack of unaffordable American steak. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — Tyson Foods Inc (NYSE:TSN). is the only major U.S. meat company still regularly releasing results as it conducts coronavirus testing for employees. It’s also the only American meat producer to see China slap a ban on some of its shipments.

On Sunday, China said customs would seize any shipments from a Tyson poultry plant in Arkansas after the company reported two days earlier that 13% of the facility’s workforce tested positive for Covid-19. The move has raised a lot of questions for the meat industry, including whether this will be a one-off action or the signal of a shifting stance from Beijing.

If China starts to routinely implement this type of halt for plants with positive Covid-19 cases, it also raises the question of whether companies will continue to publicly announce testing results.

China’s export suspension could discourage meat companies from being transparent about test results, said Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council in Atlanta.

China Blocks Tyson Poultry, Stoking Fear Over Global Exports

Tyson said Sunday it was looking into the reports on China’s action, and a spokesman on Monday said the company didn’t have more to add, while citing the company has been among the most transparent among major American food producers.

Unions and labor groups have repeatedly called for increased testing as a key part of what’s needed to keep employees safe at meat plants, where thousands of workers have fallen sick with coronavirus. The groups have also said that transparency is needed on case counts.

A German pork exporter has also voluntarily suspended meat shipments to China after a virus outbreak, the Asian country’s customs authority said last week.

If China’s export ban spooks companies from releasing testing data, it could be a further step back for ensuring worker safety after dozens of employees at meat plants died from the virus over the past several months.

The halt on Tyson shipments stands out because it’s hardly the only meat company with virus cases — it’s just the only one continuously releasing data on testing.

“Tyson should not have been cited for putting worker safety first or for its transparency in acknowledging that it has taken actions to quarantine workers at their Arkansas facility,” Sumner said in an email.

(C)2020 Bloomberg L.P.

Tyson’s Virus Transparency Made It Vulnerable to China Ban

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