Wenonah Hauter

Path Being Cleared for Bird Imports from China

In March, the USDA informed the People’s Republic of China that it meets the criteria for establishing equivalence for exporting poultry to the United States. While final determination is still subject to rulemaking and public comment, it looks once more like the path is being cleared to allow China to export poultry to the United States. But it has a long, checkered food safety history, and by allowing products from China to enter the US food supply, the Obama Administration is seriously endangering US consumers.

The writing has been on the wall regarding this development for some time. As we reported in January, China was preparing to certify ten poultry slaughter and processing facilities, including two operated by Cargill. That was when we urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to not only rethink the move to green-light exports, but to strengthen the agency’s international food program as well.

Moreover, the Obama Administration recommend in its proposed FY 2017 budget dropping the Congressional ban on the use of Chinese poultry products in various USDA-administered nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program—a terrifying idea, to say the least.

China is still suffering repercussions from the melamine contamination of dairy products in 2008 that killed 6 infants and hospitalized 300,000 consumers. Recently, employees of the US-based meat processing company OSI, which operates plants in the country, were charged with selling adulterated poultry meat to Chinese restaurants, including KFC and MacDonald’s. And let’s not forget the hundreds of dogs that have died from eating poultry jerky treats imported from China.

While China is not part of the TransPacific Partnership Agreement yet, the recently signed TPP will exacerbate an already flawed food imports system. Why endanger consumers any further by allowing a flood of potentially unsafe products to enter the US food system? Even though Country of Origin Labeling still exists for poultry, it does not cover processed products, which the USDA announcement permits. US consumers will also not be able to know if the food they’re eating and serving their families comes from China.

In what is becoming an alarming pattern, the announcement regarding China’s equivalency status came early on a Friday morning, almost as if it was trying to hide this most recent development. On this issue, they decided to grant equivalency to China’s poultry processing system for cooked, process chicken system the Friday before Labor Day in 2013.

Our nation’s food safety system was once touted as a model for other nations and it is devolving rapidly. We need to protect US consumers by blocking exports from China and rejecting the TPP. We intend to oppose the proposed rule when the comment period is announced and we urge all consumers to voice their opposition as well.

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch (foodandwaterwatch. org) and author of Foodopoly: The Future of Food and Farming in America (Foodopoly.org). Phone 202-683-2500.

From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2016


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