In an audit conducted between 24 October and 3 November 2011, the FVO pointed out flaws preventing the appropriate surveillance of poultry diseases, such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease. These included the incomplete notification of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) of all outbreaks in the Chinese territory, an unreliable system of laboratory diagnosis unable to ensure compliance to EU standards, an unoperational early-warning system, inadequate virological surveillance and insufficient vaccination coverage.
“A varied intrinsic level of risk has been identified in the three provinces audited in relation to the health status of the poultry populations with regard to avian influenza and Newcastle disease; this is further exacerbated by some shortcomings identified in relation to the surveillance and control of these diseases in China,” said the FVO.
The audit was carried out across the provinces of Fujian, Henan and Shandong after China asked the EU to relax import restrictions requiring all poultry products to be sterilised or cooked at high temperatures to enter the territory. The FVO concluded: “Despite the satisfactory management of possible residual animal health risks, ensured by heat treatment of poultry meat intended for export to the EU, the weak animal health surveillance and control system applied on the poultry populations undermines the position of the competent authorities to offer sufficient guarantees in relation to certification of the health status of the geographical area within which are situated the farms of origin of poultry, whose meat is intended for processing and export to the EU.”
The Office issued recommendations to help China reach the standards necessary to lift restrictions. The need to offer better training for animal health control staff, as well as the importance of prompt and accurate notification of all cases of the diseases, were stressed. China accepted most of the recommendations and committed to making improvements in the future, but added: “It has been proved that existing measures are sufficient to control animal diseases and prevent them from spread.”
Since October 2011, all poultry products from China must be sterilised before entering the EU, while products from the Shandong province have to be cooked at a minimum of 70°C.