After years of contentious discussions and laws prohibiting the sale of Chinese poultry in the U.S., the USDA has approved chicken products from four Chinese poultry processors to be sold in the U.S. without bearing country of origin labeling that indicates where the chicken comes from.
Initially, the ruling only allows the imports if the birds were raised in the U.S. or Canada, then shipped to China where they would be processed and cooked. But no USDA inspectors will be on sight at the Chinese plants to ensure this is the case.
Food imports from China have been at the center of food safety concerns for years because of different food safety standards, widespread contaminations, and mislabeled ingredients. "Recently, an F.D.A. investigation tied the deaths of more than 500 dogs and a handful of cats to chicken jerky treats that came from China. The treats, which were eventually recalled, additionally were blamed for sickening more than 2,500 animals," reports the New York Times.
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Experts like Tony Corbo, the senior lobbyist for Food and Water Watch feel this is the beginning step towards allowing chickens born and raised in China to be exported to the U.S. "China does not have the best track record for food safety, and its chicken products in particular have raised questions. The country has had frequent outbreaks of deadly avian influenza, which it sometimes has been slow to report," reports the Times. And critics predict that the government "would eventually expand the rules, so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the American market."
The decision by the USDA comes after years of debate over whether or not to allow Chinese chicken imports, and just weeks after the FDA released data showing high levels of salmonella contamination in imported spices.
The news came just days before Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the U.S, received approval from the USDA to sell the business to China's Shuanghui International, one of China's largest food processors. The deal was scrutinized as potentially killing U.S. jobs, but the two companies have assured the U.S. that it would only aid in meeting the growing demands for pork products in China, and no U.S. jobs would be lost.
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