Yeah you read that right. According to Adam Minter from Bloomberg, the U.S. will be shipping chicken to China to be processed, and then said chicken will be shipped back to the U.S. for consumption.
Would you willingly eat chicken nuggets processed in a country that has no intention of meeting U.S. food-safety standards? Most Americans likely wouldn’t.
That may explain why the U.S. Department of Agriculture waited until Friday — the day before a long holiday weekend — to announce that it had ended a ban on Chinese chicken imports by approving four Chinese poultry processors to ship processed (“heat-treated/cooked“) chicken to the U.S. The report on the approved poultry plants noted that the audit set out to “to determine whether the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) food safety system governing poultry processing remains equivalent to that of the United States (U.S.), with the ability to produce products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and properly labeled.” Needless to say, the Chinese plants passed.
Initially, at least, the chickens will be slaughtered in the U.S. (or another nation that’s allowed to export slaughtered chicken to the U.S.), then shipped to China for processing and re-export. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, according to the New York Times, no USDA inspectors will be present in the Chinese processing plants (despite the fact that China has never before been allowed to export chicken to the U.S.), thus offering consumers no guarantees where the processed chickens were in fact slaughtered. Even worse, because the birds will be processed, the USDA will not require point-of-origin labeling (under USDA rules, foods that have been cooked aren’t subject to point-of-origin labeling). In other words: Consumers will have no way to tell if those chicken nuggets in the supermarket freezer were processed in the U.S. or in China.
That’s a big problem. For more than a decade, China has earned a reputation as one of the world’s worst food-safety offenders. In just the last year, consumers have been confronted with a bird flu outbreak, news of sales of 46-year-old chicken feet and reports of poisonous fake mutton. These are not isolated incidents, but rather the most spectacular instances of acrisis that has become so severe that some consumers now smuggle quantities of infant milk formula from foreign countries into China so as to avoid buying potentially tainted Chinese dairy products.
The Chinese government, sensitive to people’s beliefs that it isn’t doing enough to protect their food supply, has made a point of regular, ineffective crackdowns on food-safety violators. Yet in July, when a senior Chinese policy maker involved in developing new food safety standards was asked at a press conference if and when it would meet developed-world standards, he conceded that it would, instead, have to meet China’s “national condition” as a developing country. In other words: China’s food supply cannot meet USDA standards.
China’s “national condition” has already seemingly had a harmful effect on its poultry – and on U.S. consumers unlucky enough to have bought it for their pets. (The U.S. allows chicken imports for animal consumption.) As of December 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that it had received reports of 501 dog deaths (and thousands of dog sicknesses), many seemingly from chicken jerky treats manufactured in China, dating back to 2007. But the department has so far been unable to pinpoint a cause for the problem, and the Chinese have been unwilling to volunteer one.
What was the USDA thinking when it decided to sign-off on Chinese processed chicken exports for humans? Probably not the best interest of American consumers. Rather, U.S. beef and poultry producers have long sought to have the restrictions lifted in hope of encouraging Beijing to reciprocate and open its huge market to more U.S. meat exports (U.S. beef is currently banned for import into China). It’s a reasonable goal, and one that the USDA should pursue — just not at the expense of a safe U.S. food supply.
(Adam Minter is the Shanghai correspondent for Bloomberg’s World View blog and a contributor to the Ticker. Follow him on Twitter.)
Gimme a D-I-S-G-U-S-T-I-N-G! What’s that spell? DISGUSTING!!! Seriously U.S.? It’s bad enough that you’re going to let chicken be exported to China only to be processed and re-exported back to us. But you aren’t even going to require that it be labeled as “Processed in China”? How can this even be cost-efficient for us? Never-mind the fact that this is doing NOTHING good for our economy, it’s only outsourcing even more jobs! And hello!!! There won’t even be USDA officials there to make sure that they are keeping up standards? I mean sure, the USDA and FDA lets a lot of gross stuff slide under the radar (for another post folks, plus it’s too early for disgusting talk…I’ll let you keep your breakfasts) as it is, but come on.
I can only hope that this is because of some insider who did this on purpose. So that people will flood to their local farmer’s markets to buy clean and truly unadulterated products rather than the supermarket super-crap. It’s unlikely, but a girl’s gotta keep her hopes up right?
This…this is disgusting. And they KNOW that the we the people would not want to buy any kind of Chinese-processed chicken and so that’s exactly why they don’t require it to be marked as such on the packaging. It really makes you wonder why they’re doing this if they know that if people knew about where it was from they’d loose business. It can’t possibly be less expensive to ship chickens to China, have them processed, and then shipped back…can it?
But there is hope everyone. Click here to sign the petition to “Require all chicken products that will soon be processed in the People’s Republic of China to be adequately labeled”. You have to make an account at the website, but will be 100% worth it if we can require that all “Chinese-Chicken” is labeled as such. Share the link with your friends, family, strangers on the street! MAKE THIS STOP!