Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“Documents inadvertently released by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) last week reveal that there is conclusive evidence that USDA was very close to approving the importation of Chinese poultry raised and slaughtered in that country in 2006.
“On November 19, 2014 at 2:34 p.m., FSIS issued the 42-page Directive 9770.1. entitled, ‘Determining the Initial Equivalence Foreign Food Safety Systems,’ to all FSIS personnel. At 4:50 p.m. that same day, FSIS announced that Directive 9770.1 had been rescinded, but not before Food & Water Watch managed to download a copy of the document. The Directive contained a Decision Memorandum signed on May 8, 2006 by-then FSIS Director of the International Equivalence Staff Sally White and on June 16, 2006 by then-FSIS Assistant Administrator for International Affairs Karen Stuck that recommended that the poultry slaughter system for the People’s Republic of China be found to be ‘equivalent’ to the U.S. system and that a rule be proposed to add China as eligible to export slaughtered poultry products to the U.S. (see pages 17 -24).
“On November 20, 2014 at 8:10 pm, FSIS reissued Directive 9770.1. The republished Directive is only ten-pages long and none of the supplementary documents, including the 2006 Decision Memorandum on Chinese poultry, were included.
“Nine years ago yesterday, FSIS first proposed to allow China to export processed poultry to the U.S. provided that the raw poultry came from ‘approved sources.’ In 2005, the only ‘approved sources’ were the U.S. or Canada. There was a concern at that time that China’s poultry slaughter system did not meet U.S. standards, and numerous avian influenza outbreaks in China’s poultry flocks raised animal health issues. That rule was finalized on April 24, 2006. But now we find out that FSIS was prepared to move forward with chicken imports two just months later.
“Due to thousands of U.S. consumers who have objected over the past nine years and the vigilance of congressional leaders such as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro who took legislative action to stop FSIS from moving forward, U.S. consumers have so far been protected from poultry products from a country whose food safety system is ineffectual and rampant with corruption. We can at least celebrate this Thanksgiving knowing that Chinese poultry products are not reaching our dinner tables. We once again call on USDA Secretary Vilsack to stop all efforts to permit China to export poultry products to the U.S. until that country reforms its food safety regulatory system.”