Poultry Trade Groups Back Imports From China

By Teaganne Finn

Poultry trade groups filed a joint submission Aug. 15 in support of the USDA’s proposed rule to allow China to export cooked chicken to the U.S. Opposition groups are also being vocal about the potential limitations of the proposal.

The National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council agree that the Food Safety and Inspection Services has done enough careful assessment of China’s slaughter facilities and inspection system to create a vigilant regulatory process for the import of their product.

“Unfortunately, FSIS has at times received criticisms that its proposals to permit China to export to the U.S. market do not adequately protect the safety of U.S. consumers. Those criticisms are not, in our view, based on any scientific evidence or risk assessment,” the groups said in comments.

The trade groups released extensive comments broken into three categories to further expand their reasons for support.

“The U.S. poultry industry has carefully followed this process from the beginning and is convinced that FSIS has conducted careful and systematic reviews and audits in compliance with U.S. law, and in a manner consistent with international norms,” the poultry trade groups said in the release.

Groups in Disagreement

Opposition groups are singing a different tune. Food & Water Watch has been an active voice opposing the proposed rule calling it an “ill-conceived and contrived proposition.”

FSIS conducted two audits in 2015 for the processing and slaughter inspection system in the People’s Republic of China. They visited three certified processing facilities and a poultry processing facility operated by the U.S. based company Cargill and found no major issues. However, Food & Water Watch says the audit was inaccurate.

“As past audits have shown, the PRC has had difficulty in ensuring that its provincial inspection offices are all rowing in the same direction. By limiting FSIS to evaluating two provincial offices, the PRC has manipulated the review to demonstrate that at least those two can be consistent,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

Food & Water Watch strongly urged FSIS to withdraw the proposed rule, even mentioning that Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has expressed strong safety concerns.

“If Congress believes that these products are unsafe to serve our children, then they should be kept out of our grocery stores and restaurants,” said Hauter.

The provisions supported by poultry trade groups are currently included in the agriculture appropriations bill. Some of the major ones include ensuring that poultry products exported to the U.S. maintain the same level of public health protection to which the U.S. plants adhere to and conduct re-inspections of poultry products at U.S. ports-of-entry for proper certification and labeling.

The poultry trade groups are eager to start this new trade and compete effectively with China on a global scale. “We believe any country that is able to meet the stringent safety standards set by FSIS should be able to compete in a marketplace free of protectionism and artificial trade barriers,” trade groups said.

The deadline for public comments closed Aug. 15. Nina Anand, an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told Bloomberg BNA in an email, with the comment period now closed, the FSIS will assess the feedback and based on all the evidence before the agency, they will make a final determination.

To contact the reporter on this story: Teaganne Finn in Washington at tfinn@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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