The European Union's health chief said Wednesday that China had slapped restrictions on pork imports from four member states over swine flu concerns -- a move she slammed as protectionist.
"We've had restrictions by China on the import of pork from several European Union member states because of H1N1 found in two farms in Northern Ireland," Androulla Vassiliou, EU health and food safety commissioner, told reporters.
"This will be of great concern to the EU because it's interpreted as being protectionism," she said on the second day of a visit to Beijing.
China announced the measure -- which affects Denmark, France, Italy and Spain -- on Friday, she added.
Beijing has required additional testing on all pork meat from these countries, and the disinfection of all containers, which means additional costs for exporters.
Pork imports from Northern Ireland are already subject to Chinese restrictions, officials said.
Officials at the Chinese commerce and agriculture ministries, as well as the food safety watchdog AQSIQ, were not immediately available for comment.
"Last May we had a joint declaration by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organisation... saying very clearly that consumption of pork does not transmit the H1N1 virus," Vassiliou said.
"So there is no point in restricting trade in pork."
Vassiliou said she had conveyed the European Union's concerns on Tuesday to China's vice-minister of agriculture.
She said she would also ask the head of AQSIQ -- the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine -- to lift the restrictions.
Nations around the world have warned against trade protectionism, especially as the global financial crisis takes its toll.
China and the United States have recently been involved in a dispute after Washington imposed tariffs on Chinese-made tyre imports -- a move that prompted Beijing to lodge a complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Beijing has labelled the US action a "clear trade protectionist move."