Would you willingly eat chicken nuggets processed in a country that has no intention of meeting U.S. food-safety standards? Most Americans likely wouldn't, reports Bloomberg.
That may explain why the U.S. Department of Agriculture waited until recently to announce that it had ended a ban on Chinese chicken imports by approving four Chinese poultry processors to ship processed -- heat-treated/cooked -- chicken to the U.S.
"This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S.," said Tony Corbo, the senior lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that works to promote food safety, according to The New York Times.
The U.S.D.A did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
The U.S.D.A.'s decision follows years of wrangling over the issue and comes as Americans are increasingly focused on the origin of their food, Bloomberg reports.
Although the chickens will be killed in America, no U.S.D.A. inspectors will be at the processing plants in China. As the meat shipped here will be processed, there's no requirement for point-of-origin labeling, so consumers won't be able to ascertain where those precious chicken nuggets hail from, according to Bloomberg.
The report on the approved poultry plants noted that the audit set out to "to determine whether the People's Republic of China's food safety system governing poultry processing remains equivalent to that of the United States with the ability to produce products that are safe, wholesome, unadulterated, and properly labeled." Of course, the Chinese plants passed, Bloomberg reports.
In recent years, imports have been the source of contamination, prompting broader worries about food safety. The Food and Drug Administration just released an analysis of imported spices, showing high levels of salmonella in coriander, oregano, sesame seeds and curry powder, according to The New York Times.
China does not have the best track record for food safety, and its chicken products in particular have raised questions. The country has had frequent outbreaks of deadly avian influenza, which it sometimes has been slow to report.
Recently, an F.D.A. investigation tied the deaths of more than 500 dogs and a handful of cats to chicken jerky treats that came from China. The treats, which were eventually recalled, additionally were blamed for sickening more than 2,500 animals, reports The New York Times.
The poultry trade between the United States and China has been contentious for years. Under the Bush administration, the U.S.D.A. moved to allow imports of chicken from China, which has banned imports of American beef since 2003 over worries about mad cow disease.
In response, Congress blocked Chinese chicken exports. China retaliated by slapping huge tariffs on American chicken. The fight ended up at the World Trade Organization, which ruled that the tariffs were too high. After that, the U.S.D.A. then audited Chinese processing plants, giving its approval for them to process raw birds from the United States and Canada, reports The New York Times.
Under the new rules, the Chinese facilities will verify that cooked products exported to the United States came from American or Canadian birds.