China recently banned all imports of meat from Canada following concerns forged customs certificates were used on some shipments of pork. It’s the latest blow for Canada amidst ongoing tension with the Chinese and affects trade worth almost to half-a-billion U.S. dollars.

It’s a tit-for-tat row that started when Canada arrested a senior Huawei executive in December. China then banned the import of Canadian canola seed and restricted imports of pork products from certain plants due to labeling errors.

“Recently the Chinese Customs authorities have inspected (and found) ractopamine residues in a batch of pork products exported from Canada to China,” the Chinese embassy in China stated. “Therefore the Chinese side has immediately suspended the import of pork products from the relevant enterprises and required the Canadian side to carry out investigation.

Ractopamine is a feed additive, banned in many countries, used to promote leanness in animals raised for their meat.

“The subsequent investigation revealed that the official veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China were counterfeit, and the number of those forgery certificates was up to 188,” the embassy statement continued. “The Canadian side believes that this incident is criminal offense.

“These forged certificates were sent to the Chinese regulatory authorities through Canadian official certificate-notification channel, which reflects that the Canadian meat-export supervision system exists (with) obvious safety loopholes.

“In order to protect the safety of Chinese consumers, China has taken urgent preventive measures and requested the Canadian government to suspend the issuance of certificates for meat exported to China since June 25.

“We hope the Canadian side would attach great importance to this incident, complete the investigation as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure the safety of food exported to China in a more responsible manner.”

Meat-producer groups in Canada are investigating the claims. A spokeswoman for Canada’s Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canadian authorities have taken precautionary measures and informed law-enforcement agencies. The government is working with Canadian meat-sector stakeholders and Chinese officials on the matter, she said.

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With 16 years experience behind him, award-winning agricultural journalist Chris McCullough is always on the hunt for his next story. He grew up on the family dairy farm in the heart of Northern Ireland and is based on the country’s east coast. He travels around the world to bring readers international news.