Statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter.
Washington, D.C.—“It’s common practice for government agencies to release information they hope to sneak past consumers on Friday afternoons before a holiday weekend. So it’s not surprising that this afternoon the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) gave the green light to certain chicken processing facilities in China to be able to export poultry products to the U.S. The news was made public in an audit report posted on the agency’s website.
“This action completes the FSIS’ 2006 determination that the Chinese food safety system is equivalent to that of the U.S. for processed poultry. There is a restriction to what can be shipped, however. The Chinese can only process raw poultry that comes from ‘approved’ sources, which are limited to countries such as the U.S., Canada, and Chile. This means raw poultry needs to be shipped to China from those countries for cooking before it can be exported to the U.S. An audit to determine whether China can export its own poultry to the U.S. is near completion.
“There are several loopholes in the audit report that put consumer safety at risk:
- There will be no USDA inspector stationed in the Chinese poultry processing facilities to verify that the Chinese are cooking poultry products from only the “approved” sources, and not using their own poultry for export;
- the Chinese food safety system is still riddled with serious deficiencies;
- and because the poultry is processed, no Country of Origin label is required, leaving U.S. consumers in the dark.
“Today’s action is the first step towards allowing China to export their own chicken to the U.S. even though there are serious animal health concerns with avian influenza. Rulemaking would be required for that step to be finalized.
“It has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. that has been closed since 2003 due to the diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease. Today’s audit report reveals yet again that USDA is willing to allow trade to trump food safety.”
Contact: Kate Fried, [email protected], 202-683-4905