OTTAWA — China has asked Canada to suspend all meat exports after discovering bogus veterinary health certificates attached to a batch of pork, its embassy said Tuesday, as Canadian police launched a criminal probe.
The embassy in Ottawa said a customs investigation -- launched after the discovery of traces of a banned feed additive -- revealed that up to 188 forged certificates had been provided to Chinese officials through "Canadian official certificate notification channels."
"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," it said.
A Canadian government official confirmed to AFP that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has been called in to investigate the case for possible criminality.
Meanwhile, according to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has reached out to its Chinese counterpart for more information about the forgery allegations.
In a statement, she said the CFIA "has identified a problem with false export certificates that could affect exports of pork and beef products to China."
The agency, she added, "has taken steps to remedy the situation" while continuing to work with industry partners and Chinese authorities.
Bibeau noted that the issue "does not affect export certificates to other countries."
The official Xinhua news agency earlier this month said that customs officials in the eastern city of Nanjing had found that recent pork shipments from Frigo Royal contained Ractopamine.
The feed additive, which boosts the growth of animals, is widely used in the United States but banned in the European Union and China.
Bibeau said this month that Chinese customs had increased inspections of Canadian imports amid frosty relations over the December arrest of a senior executive of telecoms giant Huawei on a US extradition request related to alleged Iran sanctions violations.
In a move seen as retaliation, Chinese authorities detained two Canadian nationals on suspicion of spying and blocked billions worth of agricultural shipments.