John Dee, Australia’s oldest family-owned meat processor, was hit with the new trade suspension just days after Canberra blocked a $600 million Chinese bid for Lion Dairy and Drinks. But China said the beef import ban was an individual case and had been imposed after the outlawed substance chloramphenicol was found in some of the Australian company’s products.
Customs officials are demanding a full investigation and report from the Australian side after the chemical was detected in John Dee beef loin when it was tested in Chinese ports.
Chloramphenicol is normally used in the treatment of bacterial infections in dogs and cats.
A spokesman for China’s General Administration of Customs said: “The defective products were destroyed and were not allowed to enter the country.
“In order to ensure the safety of imported meat products, customs has officially notified Australia to suspend the export of the company to China, and requires Australia to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the relevant company within 45 days and provide feedback to the Chinese side.”
John Dee joins two Queensland abattoirs owned by Australia’s largest meat processor, JBS, as well as Kilcoy Pastoral Company near Brisbane and Northern Co-operative Meat Company at Casino on China’s banned list.
Imports from those companies were suspended in May over labelling and health certificate requirements.
John Dee employs more than 600 staff across sites in Warwick and Inglewood in regional Queensland, where $5.8 billion worth of beef is exported worldwide from across the industry each year.
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Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said he was surprised by the Chinese authorities finding chloramphenicol.
He said: “We have not had one detection ever.
“We deal with anomalies all the time globally. If it wasn’t China no one would even notice.”
The John Dee trade suspension also comes after the Australian government threatened to tear up contracts between state governments, universities and China, including Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with Beijing.
The new laws will allow the Australian foreign minister to cancel agreements that states, territories, local governments and universities enter into with an overseas government if they contradict Australia’s national interest.
Australia has joined a coalition of countries condemning China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, repression of Uighur’s in Xinjiang and incursions in the South China Sea.