A ship docked at a port in Rizhao, Shandong province, China. Picture: REUTERS
A ship docked at a port in Rizhao, Shandong province, China. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — China will block pork imports from a third Canadian firm after a shipment was found to contain the banned feed additive ractopamine, the customs agency said on Tuesday, deepening a trade and diplomatic dispute with Canada.

The firm in question is Frigo Royal, the agency said. Ractopamine is used in some countries to make leaner pigs but China does not allow its use or tolerate residues in imported meat.

China will also strengthen inspections for the residue in all pork imports from Canada, the notice from the general aqdministration of customs said. Quebec-based Frigo Royal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

China halted pork imports from two other Canadian producers, Olymel and Drummond Export, in April because of labelling problems. It has also blocked imports of canola.

Relations between China and Canada nosedived last December after Vancouver police detained Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei Technologie, on a US arrest warrant. Beijing is demanding her return.

Canadian government officials said in June they had been warned by China that it would step up inspections of meat imports after “recent cases of noncompliance” in pork shipments.

Katie Hawkins, a spokeswoman for Canadian agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, said federal food inspectors were probing the latest case. “We stand by our system and our strong reputation as reliable suppliers of quality products worldwide,” she said by email.

The Chinese customs notice said authorities in the port of Nanjing had detected ractopamine residue in a batch of Frigo Royal pork on June 3.

China had previously warned Canada that it would open all containers of Canadian meat and, in some cases, inspect 100% of the contents.

Many Canadian farmers started raising pigs without ractopamine in 2013 to boost exports to China. Pork exporters, feed manufacturers and hog farms in Canada now enrol in a government programme that certifies pork was produced without ractopamine, said Gary Stordy, spokesman for the Canadian Pork Council farmer group.

“We have confidence in the programme, the scrutiny and the testing that takes place,” he said.

Elanco Animal Health, the manufacturer of Paylean, the commercial name for the ractopamine feed ingredient, could not be immediately reached. On its website, it lists Paylean as available in the US but not in Canada.

In the first four months of 2019, China was Canada’s third-biggest pork export market, taking in C$310m ($231.41m) of Canada’s pork, according to Statistics Canada.