Here’s a bit of news that might make you drop that chicken nugget midbite.
Just before the start of the long holiday weekend last Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly announced that it was ending a ban on processed chicken imports from China. The kicker: These products can now be sold in the U.S. without a country-of-origin label.
For starters, just four Chinese processing plants will be allowed to export cooked chicken products to the U.S., as first reported by Politico. The plants in question passed USDA inspection in March. Initially, these processors will only be allowed to export chicken products made from birds that were raised in the U.S. and Canada. Because of that, the poultry processors won’t be required to have a USDA inspector on site, as The New York Timesnotes, adding:
“And because the poultry will be processed, it will not require country-of-origin labeling. Nor will consumers eating chicken noodle soup from a can or chicken nuggets in a fast-food restaurant know if the chicken came from Chinese processing plants.”
That’s a pretty disturbing thought for anyone who’s followed the slew of stories regarding food safety failures in China in recent years. As we’vepreviously reported on The Salt, this year alone, thousands of dead pigs turned up in the waters of Shanghai, rat meat was passed off as mutton and — perhaps most disconcerting for U.S. consumers — there was an outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu virus among live fowl in fresh meat markets.
What’s more, critics fear that the changes could eventually open the floodgates for a whole slew of chicken products from China. As the industry publication World Poultry notes:
“It is thought … that the government would eventually expand the rules, so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the American market. Experts suggest that this could be the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S.”
The USDA’s decision comes with a backdrop of long-running trade disputes over meat between the U.S. and China. In a nutshell: China banned U.S. beef exports in 2003 after a case of mad cow disease turned up in a Washington state cow. Then, when the bird flu virus broke out widely among Asian bird flocks in 2004, the U.S. blocked imports of Chinese poultry. China challenged that decision in front of the World Trade Organization, which ruled in China’s favor in 2010. More at SOURCE