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China bans Arkansas poultry after mild bird flu strain

By Theopolis Waters

CHICAGO (Reuters) - China has banned imports of poultry and poultry products from the state of Arkansas after a low-pathogenic strain of avian influenza was found in the state in June, U.S. government and industry officials said on Tuesday

"All poultry and poultry products shipped from the State of Arkansas on or after July 22, 2013 are ineligible for export," the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said on its web site on Tuesday.

The Chinese government posted an official notification on its website, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council spokesman Toby Moore told Reuters.

"As an industry we are disappointed because we hoped China would take the high road and not ban the whole state and limit the ban to the county because it was an isolated incident," Moore said.

Arkansas is the second largest U.S. chicken producer behind Georgia.

In June, tests found about eight birds in an Arkansas flock of 9,000 breeder chickens in Scott County were positive for the H7N7 low-pathogen avian flu, a state poultry official said at the time. The flock was humanly euthanized and buried and the eggs they produced were destroyed.

The influenza is a milder strain of the flu that caused dozens of deaths in China and crippled its poultry industry. Also, the virus found in Arkansas does not pose a threat to humans, state and industry officials said.

Neither the meat or the eggs would have entered the food chain.

The Arkansas farm supplied birds to Tyson Foods Inc.

In response, Tyson said in June it planned to step up its bio-security measures and surveillance of avian influenza and test all area breeder farms that serve the company.

A Tyson spokesman could not be reached for comment regarding China's ban on Arkansas poultry.

(Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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