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June 24th, 2008

Year of the Chicken?

Chinese government and agribusinesses want to send processed chicken to the United States for your consumptive pleasure.  The problem?  This chicken may not be safe.  The main concerns stem from the findings of U.S. inspectors upon visiting Chinese facilities.  Their reports cite defective equipment, lack of employee hygiene, unsanitary conditions, and an absence of regulations requiring pre-shipment testing for Salmonella, E. coli and other contaminants.  Reports of avian flu outbreaks in China also raise questions about the safety of Chinese poultry.
That Chinese imports may compromise the health of consumers is not a new problem (Washington Post, NPR).  In recent years, the FDA has refused to import hundreds of products from China, ranging from seafood to cosmetics, in which it detected dangerous substances or other regulatory violations. 

However, the USDA continues to attempt to approve the importation of Chinese poultry.  The Administration even went so far as to propose an absurd back-and-forth trade system whereby birds would be raised in North America, shipped to China to be processed, and then sent back to be sold.  Having been blocked by Congress last year, the USDA is again trying to open up the American meat market to Chinese chicken.

 Why is the USDA so determined to allow this trade?  Are we facing a national chicken deficit?  On the contrary, the United States has been producing too much chicken.  The real reason seems to lie in the interests of the meat industry.  It is thought that accepting Chinese poultry is an important prerequisite to China opening its markets to U.S. beef and pork.    

While it is important that we stay on good terms with China, this should not happen at the expense of your safety.  Sign our petition to tell Congress not to import Chinese Chicken!

– Darcy White


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