China has suspended imports of shellfish from the west coast of the United States — an unprecedented move that cuts off a $270 million Northwest industry from its biggest export market.
China said it decided to impose the ban after recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters were found by its own government inspectors to have high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.
The restriction took effect last week and China’s government says it will continue indefinitely. It applies to clams, oysters and all other two-shelled bivalves harvested from the waters of Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California. U.S. officials think the contaminated clams were harvested in Washington or Alaska. Right now they’re waiting to hear back from Chinese officials for more details that will help them identify the exact source.
State and federal agencies oversee inspection and certification to prevent the shipment of tainted shellfish. Jerry Borchert of the Washington Department of Health said he’s never encountered such a ban based on the Chinese government’s assertion that these U.S. safeguards failed to screen out contaminated seafood.