Chinese market bans imported seafood, threatens fines for transgressors

Published on
December 8, 2020

Seafood markets in one of China’s largest cities are barring vendors from selling or stocking imported seafood after a string of incidents in which the novel coronavirus was detected on foodstuffs of foreign origin.

Vendors at the Xin Zhu Que wholesale market, located in the northwesterly city of Xi’an, have signed a pledge not to bring imported product into the market or to sell it, with fines set at CNY 10,000 (USD 1,500, EUR 1,300) per 500 grams of product if found in possession of imported seafood. Copies of the declarations shared on Weibo suggest the declarations – signed and stamped by each vendor – have been drawn up by the managers of the market rather than any government authority.

However, the national government has also been taking steps to curtail imports of foreign seafood, ostensibly for food safety purposes. This week, a Pakistan-based seafood exporter had its access to the Chinese market suspended after a one-ton shipment of “white fish” was found to be contaminated with COVID-19, according to Chinese Customs, which did not specify whether the traces were found on the product or packaging. 

And last week, China Customs suspended import declarations from Indian seafood producer B-One Business House after traces of coronavirus were detected in a sample of frozen white shrimp. Two Indonesian seafood producers, PT Cita Karya Agung and PT Starfood International, suffered the same fate after packaging on a batch of frozen hair tail (fish) and fish paste tested positive for COVID-19.

Media coverage linking COVID-19 to imported seafood has hammered demand in key markets like Xi’an and has sparked an upswell in demand for local products among consumers who have long purchased imported food products for their superior quality and safety.

“Imported food is everywhere now in China, I am patriotic I eat local food products…imported food safety is bleak!” wrote one account on Weibo, titled Ai De Bi Ni Shen V, under a repost of a news article on the Xi’an market restrictions.

Photo courtesy of Luca Rei/Shutterstock

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