USDA Records Reveal Political Pressure to Allow Chinese Chicken Imports

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Anna Ghosh, aghosh(at)fwwatch

USDA Records Reveal Political Pressure to Allow Chinese Chicken Imports

Food & Water Watch submits petition to remove China from list of eligible exporters of poultry products

WASHINGTON - Food & Water Watch today submitted a Citizen Petition asking the
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service
(FSIS) to remove the People’s Republic of China from the list of
countries eligible to export processed poultry products to the United
States.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Food & Water Watch
has found that the USDA’s process for approving a rule that would grant
China permission to export processed poultry products to the United
States has been flawed and serious mistakes were made due to pressure on
the agency to allow the imports to begin as soon as possible.

“In the long running saga of whether or not the U.S. should allow
poultry processed in China to enter the United States, we now have
evidence of instances where the USDA broke its own rules,” said Food
& Water Watch’s Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The USDA’s first
responsibility is to protect U.S. consumers from unnecessary food
safety risks – not rush through the process to help trade negotiators
open the Chinese market to U.S. beef.”

Food & Water Watch has been fighting for more careful scrutiny of
proposed Chinese poultry exports to the U.S. since 2005. Through a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed with FSIS, the consumer
advocacy non-profit has uncovered several flaws in the process to
include China on the list of approved importers. Some of the most
troubling findings include:

  • In its haste to get a final rule announced in time for a visit to
    the United States by the Chinese President in 2006, USDA missed required
    steps in the approval process and failed to send the rule to the USDA
    Office of Civil Rights for review;
  • USDA staff made incorrect public statements that consumers would be
    able to avoid Chinese poultry imports, despite the fact that country of
    origin labeling requirements would not apply to processed poultry
    products;
  • Pressure on the USDA to approve the rule was based in part on U.S.
    efforts to reopen the U.S. beef trade with China, which was banned after
    mad cow disease was discovered in a cow in Washington State in 2003;
  • FSIS provided different sets of data for the potential economic
    impact of processed poultry imports from China on the domestic poultry
    industry.

“China’s food safety system is virtually non-existent,” said Hauter.
“USDA needs to do a thorough evaluation of whether this is a country
that can safely produce processed poultry products for the U.S. market.
They shouldn’t rush through the process for political reasons.”

Download the Citizen Petition,
which includes details of Food & Water Watch’s FOIA findings and a
history of the FSIS rule to add the People’s Republic of China to the
list of countries eligible to export processed poultry products..

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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