CDC Responds to Claims About Chinese Biolab in California

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it “strongly disputes” criticism of the federal agency contained in a major new report, produced by the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), concerning an alleged secret biolab in Reedley, California.

According to the report, thousands of vials containing potentially dangerous or unknown substances, including some labeled “Ebola” and “HIV,” were uncovered during an inspection of what was initially thought to be a vacant warehouse. The facility was uncovered in December 2022 by Jesalyn Harper, a Reedley code enforcement official who spotted a green hose sticking out of the building, and then went in to investigate. Inside, Harper found an array of laboratory equipment, medical-grade freezers, mice for experiments and vials containing writing in English, Mandarin and an unknown code. Several individuals wearing lab coats were also discovered who claimed to be Chinese nationals.

In response to Harper’s discovery, the city launched an investigation which eventually involved the California Department of Public Health, the federal Food and Drug Administration, the CDC and the FBI.

It comes amidst heightened tensions between the United States and China, with the world’s two biggest economies clashing over trade, human rights and the sovereignty of both Taiwan and the South China Sea. On Wednesday, Chinese premier Xi Jinping held talks with President Joe Biden near San Francisco, on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference.

CDC experts identified a number of potentially infectious agents at the Reedley site, including chlamydia, HIV, Hepatitis B and C, malaria, SARS-CoV-2, Dengue virus and the rubella virus. However, according to the report, they refused to test a number of unlabeled vials, along with a fridge labeled “Ebola,” which were destroyed before their exact content could be ascertained.

The House committee report branded the CDC’s response “inadequate,” claiming the agency initially refused to take a phone call from city and county officials.

It continued: “The CDC’s refusal to test any samples is likewise baffling. The CDC observed in its own reporting that ‘[t]housands of vials had unclear labeling, coded labeling, or no identifications,’ that biohazard signs were around many of these unlabeled vials, and that the labeled vials included Risk Group 2 and 3 pathogens.

“Despite the probability that the unlabeled or coded vials contained additional unknown and dangerous pathogens, CDC officials refused to take any further investigative steps.”

“The CDC’s continued refusal to test pathogens despite reasonable requests and the offer to pay from local officials facing a concerned populace simply does not make sense,” it continued.

Speaking to Newsweek, a CDC official with knowledge of the investigation fervently disputed these findings.

Referencing the committee report, they said: “CDC strongly disputes the report’s conclusions critical of the agency. The report includes numerous inaccuracies, including both the charge that CDC did not respond to local requests for aid and the false implication that CDC had the authority to unilaterally investigate or seize samples from PBI’s Reedley building.

“Indeed, CDC has, and continues to be been actively engaged, within its regulatory authorities, in the intergovernmental efforts to address issues surrounding the facility.”

Stock photo of a laboratory taken at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. The CDC has defended its conduct after a suspected Chinese biolab was uncovered in California.
Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/GETTY

Newsweek has contacted the House Select Committee on the CCP for comment by online contact form and Rep. Mike Gallagher, its chair, by telephone and voicemail message.

According to the report, the committee biolab was owned by Jia Bei Zhu, a Chinese national with links to his country’s governing Communist Party, who operated through a number of companies including Prestige Biotech Incorporated (PBI). In October, Zhu was arrested on suspicion of manufacturing and distributing misbranded medical devices in violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and making false statements to the FDA. If convicted he faces a maximum three years in prison.