American citizens are attempting to get Congress to stop allowing the processing of American poultry in Chinese facilities. The poultry, which is raised and slaughtered in the U.S., Canada, or Chile, is then processed in China, and then imported into the States for consumption. The fear of the negative impact on American public is high, given that the Chinese government has a history of poor food safety regulation.
In 2012, news of contaminated food products at Walmarts in two major Chinese cities was reported within a day of the discovery of high levels of mercury in baby formula there. China responded by releasing a five-year food safety plan that seeks to address a number of food safety concerns. Yum! Brands, a supplier to KFC, was found to have used excess levels of antibiotics in its poultry. As recently as January of this year, Walmart was forced to recall donkey meat that was contaminated with fox meat.
Given China’s dismal track record with food safety regulations, it’s quite shocking that the US Department of Agriculture would agree to let Chinese facilities process American poultry.
In addition to selling the poultry in American supermarkets, the USDA will allow the processed chicken to be used in the National School Lunch program, along with other federal nutrition programs, putting the most vulnerable demographic at risk for food-related illnesses.
Currently, a petition on Change.org has more than 280,000 supporters, while a similar petition on ForceChange.com does not reveal a public tally. In an open letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Committee, 14 members of congress also supported the measure.
The Change.org reports that there will be no on-site USDA inspectors to supervise, and that the chicken will not need to be identified as coming from China. In an editorial for The Hill, Nancy Huehnergrath, a co-petitioner of the Change.org plea, discussed the serious implications of allowing Chinese-processed poultry to go unlabeled: "If a local restaurant has serious food safety violations, people have access to that information and can avoid that restaurant… But, if chicken processed in China is in our children’s chicken nuggets, we’ll never know. That’s a shameful and needless risk our government is taking, at the expense of America’s health."