US Approves First Chinese Plants to Export Poultry Meat

US - Concerns have been raised in the US over possible food safety risks following an announcement earlier this week that the American authorities have named the first Chinese poultry plants that can export US-reared chicken back to the country after processing.
calendar icon 7 November 2014
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USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced that four establishments in China have been approved as eligible to export processed (cooked) poultry products to the United States.

The establishments have been named as:

  • Shandong Delicate Food Company, Ltd.
  • No. 2 Meat Product Processing Plant of Weifang Legang Food Company, Ltd.
  • Qingyun Ruifeng Food Company, Ltd. and
  • Qingdao Nine-alliance Group Company, Ltd., Changguang Food Plant.

Such product must be produced from poultry slaughtered in countries that have been determined by FSIS to have an equivalent poultry slaughter inspection system. China is eligible to export poultry products that are fully cooked and not shelf-stable.

These are the same plants, located in the Shandong province, that China certified as operating under requirements equivalent to those of the United States in March 2013. In August 2013, FSIS affirmed in the audit report that China’s processed poultry inspection system was equivalent to that of the US.

After discussion and review of the export inspection certificate from China, FSIS has accepted the certificate.

FSIS will reinspect any product exported by the four establishments when it is brought to a US port before it will be allowed into the domestic market.

Not all parties accept these assurances, however.

"We urge Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to rethink this potentially dangerous decision."
Wenonah Hauter

Chicken imports from China represent a raw deal for US consumers, according to Food & Water Watch.

On 6 November, the organisation's Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter, said: “In a post election surprise, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday that the People’s Republic of China had completed the necessary paperwork to certify four of its poultry processing plants to be able to export processed poultry products to the US. The raw poultry, however, needs to come from ‘approved sources,’ such as the US, Canada or Chile. The announcement came in the form of a ‘Special Alert’ to stakeholders who are subscribed to the agency’s ‘Constituent Update’ that is normally published weekly and circulated on Friday afternoons. We urge Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to rethink this potentially dangerous decision.

“China’s food safety system is a wreck. Food & Water Watch has been fighting FSIS on this issue since it first proposed granting China equivalency status in November 2005. There have been scores of food safety scandals in China, and the most recent ones have involved expired poultry products sold to US fast food restaurants based in China. Now, we have FSIS moving forward to implement this ill-conceived decision, and it has not even audited the Chinese food safety system in over 20 months, in direct contradiction to what it promised it would do to protect US consumers. The election was not even a day old before it became apparent to us that the Obama administration is charging ahead with its flawed trade agenda.

“The timing of this announcement coincides with the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo that is currently being held in Shanghai. FSIS’ equivalency determination for Chinese poultry has been the subject of a nearly decade’s old controversy, primarily because of China’s weak food safety system. FSIS found China’s poultry processing food safety system to be equivalent to that of the US in April 2006 and reaffirmed that decision on August 30, 2013. In its August 2013 reaffirmation, FSIS stated that it was basing its decision on a March 2013 audit it had conducted of four Chinese poultry processing facilities.

“The agency also stated that it would conduct annual audits of the Chinese food safety system to ensure that our food safety standards were being enforced for processed poultry exported to the US. But, as of this date, no such audit has been conducted by FSIS inspection personnel since March 2013, so the agency’s promises are questionable at best,” added Ms Hauter.

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