Japan, South Korea commissaries adjust to overseas embargo on poultry

  • Published
  • By Kevin L. Robinson
  • DeCA Public Affairs
Commissary patrons in South Korea and Japan will see shortages of some U.S. poultry products because of local embargoes related to avian flu discoveries in several U.S. states.

The embargoes affect U.S. shipments to Korea and Japan of chicken, turkey, eggs and products that contain these ingredients, such as pot pies, lunch meat, hotdogs, meal entrees and egg rolls. As a result, the Defense Commissary Agency is using alternative options to supply these products to its 11 commissaries in Korea and 14 stores on mainland Japan and Okinawa.

"We are using various alternatives to provide some poultry products on our shelves in South Korea and Japan," said Joseph H. Jeu, the DeCA Director and CEO. "However, because these are limited, interim solutions that may not stock our shelves fully, our patrons may experience shortages of certain poultry items."

With no idea how long the embargoes will last, DeCA has identified some interim local source suppliers for fresh chicken and eggs in Korea and Japan. While there is an abundance of locally sourced fresh chicken, the prices are higher than U.S.-sourced chicken. Local egg prices are comparable to U.S. egg prices.

In Korea, approval has been granted to allow some cooked poultry items to enter the country with additional documentation from U.S. manufacturers, said Eric Swayzee, the DeCA's director of logistics.

"The documentation is a new requirement and will take time to implement at the various manufacturing plants across the U.S.," Swayzee said. "These new documentation requirements are not retroactive; therefore, the 'cooked' U.S. poultry products already in South Korea, or in route remain on hold and cannot be sold."

The commissary agency has also increased deliveries of products containing beef and pork for both Korea and Japan to replace similar chicken and turkey-related items unavailable because of the import restrictions.

"Our top priority is always to ensure our military members and their families stationed overseas have the products they need when they use their commissary benefit," Jeu said.

The situation with poultry began in late December 2014, when South Korea issued an embargo preventing the import of all U.S. uncooked poultry and poultry products on or after Dec. 20, 2014. The restriction resulted from the discovery of avian flu, formally known as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), traced to a poultry farm in Oregon.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced the presence of avian flu in California, prompting Japan to subsequently embargo any imports of U.S. poultry that originate or are shipped from California, Oregon and Washington State. To date, poultry shipments originating from other U.S. states are not affected by Japan's embargo.

The USDA stresses that the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs at an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit will eliminate viruses and bacteria.

"This is not a public health concern," said Army Col. Michael A. Buley, the DeCA's director of public health and safety. "This virus has been around a while and there is no indication of transmission to humans.

"All of these importation restrictions are an attempt to protect the host nation's poultry industries," Buley added.