Posted October 2, 2013
 
Food safety advocates are raising concerns about a decision by the USDA and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to allow chicken processed in China to be sold in the U.S., according to a Bloomberg article available here.
 
USDA and FSIS announced that they will allow poultry slaughtered in the U.S. and Canada to be processed in China and returned to the U.S. on August 30, in a letter to Li Chunfeng, the deputy director general of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  The letter states: “As all outstanding issues have been resolved, the PRC may proceed with certifying a list of poultry processing establishments as meeting the FSIS requirements.”  The letter and report are available here.
 
Critics say that this decision puts consumers at risk due to lax Chinese factory oversight.  Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, “The Chinese food-safety system has had significant failures in the enforcement of its food –safety laws and regulations.”  Past problems of concern include tainted baby formula and evidence of the chemical melamine in pet food and eggs.  In addition, China recently had an outbreak of avian influenza in its chicken flocks.
 
USDA stated, “Consumers should know that any processed poultry from China will be produced under equivalent food safety standards and conditions as U.S. poultry.”  The poultry is also required to be fully cooked.
 
Since the poultry will be processed, however, it will not require country of origin labeling (COOL).  In addition, consumers eating processed foods with chicken as an ingredient or chicken from a restaurant will not know if the chicken was processed in China. 
 
Tom Super, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council said, “Ninety-nine percent of the chicken we consume here is hatched, raised, and processed in the U.S.” and we “don’t expect that to change any time soon.”
 
According to an article by The Atlantic, available here, the decision “to lift the ban opens the door to the import of Chinese poultry products, but processed chicken won’t be exploding onto the U.S. market anytime soon.”  Four Chinese poultry processing plants (0.4 percent of the total meat processing firms in China), will be allowed to export to the United States.

 

For more information on food safety issues, please visit the National Agricultural Law Center’s website, here.  For information on COOL and International Agricultural Trade, please visit the Center’s website here and here.