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US grabs £ 1 million smuggled Chinese pork

A pig statue at the entrance of a restaurant in the Daikanyama district of Tokyo. (Reuters picture)

CHIGAGO: US federal agents seized £ 1 million (454 tons) smuggled from China to a New Jersey port fearing that the flesh might contain traces of African swine fever virus that has hardened the Asian country's swine herd.

The bust marks the largest ever seizure of agricultural produce in the United States, according to Anthony Bucci, a US Customs and Border Protection Public Business Specialist. The pork arrived in more than 50 freight containers in recent weeks to the port of Newark, hidden in containers of frame noodles and detergents, he said.

"At this point, it is an ongoing investigation," Bucci said by telephone and added that the Customs Office is working with the US Department of Agriculture.

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People cannot be infected, but swine populations can be dried by African swine fever. China's swine herd – the largest in the world – has fallen as peasants slaughter animals.

The United States has never had African swine fever, and officials are increasing efforts to keep the disease out.

Any sign of disease stateside may mean that pork buyers are starting to ban US exports at a time when producers are already suffering from Chinese tariffs.

Meat products, and also certain animal feeds, can carry the virus, for which there is no vaccine.

Hog prices traded in Chicago have jumped on speculation that China's herd of flocks will force the nation to import more American pork. The June terminals rose 11% a week ending Friday, a record gain for the contract. Shares of meat producers also climbed.

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