Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How You Like Your Chinese Chicken Nuggets?

My first indication that we have a problem was this article: http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/usda-allow-china-process-chickens-ship-back-u-214500281.html

USDA to Allow China to Process Chickens, Ship Back to U.S

by Charlotte Andersen for SHAPE.com

Newly implemented rules will change the way we process chicken in the U.S.Newly implemented rules will change the way we process chicken in the U.S."Chinese chicken" will soon have a whole new meaning, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently gave the green-light to four chicken processing plants in China, allowing chicken raised and slaughtered in the U.S. to be exported to China for processing, and then shipped back to the U.S. and sold on grocery shelves here.

The actual arrangement will take some time to set in, however. "All this means is that we've deemed China's poultry processing equivalent to the process in the United States," says Arianne Perkins, USDA public affairs specialist. Individual companies will still have to be certified, something Perkins says has not happened yet.

While the logistics are hard to imagine-if we can't safely leave chicken out for the length of a family picnic, how can it be shipped halfway around the world and back with no ill effects?-the USDA is doing its best to reassure both chicken farmers and consumers that the process is 100-percent safe.

"The Food Safety and Inspection Service's number-one priority is always food safety," Perkins says. In the official memo, the FSIS says that "all outstanding issues have been resolved"-a pretty big promise considering that in the past year alone China has made news for passing off rat meat as mutton, selling sausages filled with maggots, inexplicably finding thousands of dead pigs floating in the waters of Shanghai, and even having an outbreak of the H7N9 bird flu in live poultry.

"We do have a concern about safety," National Chicken Council senior vice president Bill Roenigk said in a statement. "But we've been assured and reassured by the USDA that they will do 100-percent testing on poultry products from China. We have confidence that the USDA will do that testing and do it in a good and adequate manner."

However, Perkins adds that while there will be increased testing on the chicken before re-entering the U.S., they will not be doing any on-site monitoring or testing in China, a fact that Rep. Rosa De Lauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement is "deeply worrisome" for American consumers. Even worse, a report just this month from the United States Government Accountability Office found that the USDA's domestic poultry inspections have a lot of problems anyhow, as they are in the process of replacing certified-USDA inspectors with those provided by the poultry companies themselves.

In addition to the concerns that this decision could open the door for even more unsafe practices, no country-of-origin labels are required under the new rules, so consumers won't know where their bird is coming from. Plus industry insiders warn that the move is politically motivated by a desire to get China to re-allow lucrative U.S. beef imports and will likely lead to allowing imports of Chinese chickens, a practice that's been banned since bird flu and other food safety concerns first surfaced.

All of this has many recommending to buy local so you know your dinner is safe and 100-percent all-American.
 
This prompted me to write the following e-mail to the USDA/FSIS:
 
Dear Sir/Madam,
     I simply cannot believe a story I just read that American chicken producers will be raising and slaughtering chickens, then sending them to Communist China (People's Republic of China, PRC) for "processing," then the processed chicken will be shipped back to the USA.  Has the leadership of the USDA completely lost it?  You can't be serious.  Communist China does not allow foreign inspection of its factories or farms, and they are notorious for food fraud, chemical contamination (intentional), and using ANY means to justify their goal/ends, which is more profit for China.  Furthermore, I do not believe that the USDA will do 100% testing on poultry products from China.  That is simply not logistically possible.
     I blame Congress for opening the floodgates for Chinese products, but food can be a major problem.  I'm also aware that the PRC has poured billions of dollars into lobbying Congress to approve more and more imports.  Can you tell me by what law/rule/authority the USDA is allowed to make this decision?  So much for Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP).
     I would please request that someone with current, factual knowledge of this program respond to me as soon as possible.
Sincerely,
Donald K. Allen, MS, DVM
Lt. Col., USAFR (Ret.)
Public Health Officer
 
And today, Feb. 5, 2014, I received this reply:
 
February 5, 2014
Mr. Donald Allen
donkenall@peoplepc.com
Dear Mr. Allen:
Thank you for your e-mail of September 29, 2013, regarding importing processed (cooked) poultry from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  Your e-mail has been forwarded to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for a response.  I apologize for the delay.
FSIS is the public health regulatory agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled.  FSIS enforces the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), and the Egg Products Inspection Act, which require Federal inspection and regulation of meat, poultry, and processed egg products prepared for distribution in commerce for use as human food. 
As a regulatory agency, FSIS has a legal obligation, as mandated by Congress, to audit any foreign country interested in exporting meat, poultry, or processed egg products to the        United States.  A foreign country’s inspection system must ensure that establishments preparing poultry products for export to the Unites States comply with requirements equivalent to those in the PPIA and in FSIS regulations.
The Agency’s first priority is to protect the health and well-being of American families by guarding the safety of this country’s supply of meat, poultry, and egg products.  To that end, FSIS has developed a comprehensive system for verifying the safety of imported products.  That system is based on establishing the equivalency of the foreign country’s food safety system, periodic audits of the foreign system, and point-of-entry inspection of all meat and poultry products that are offered for import into the United States. 
Once a country is granted equivalence, FSIS increases inspection activities for products from that country.  Furthermore, FSIS will conduct audits of China’s inspection system for processed poultry annually for at least the next 3 years.  In addition, FSIS conducts reinspection of imported product at U.S. points-of-entry to check for proper certification, labeling, transportation damage, testing for foodborne pathogens, and general condition. 
On August 30, 2013, FSIS posted the final audit report finding that the PRC is eligible to export processed poultry product to the United States.  FSIS has determined that China’s poultry processing inspection system is equivalent to that of the United States, and processed chicken products imported from the PRC would be processed under equivalent conditions to those in the United States.  This finding will enable the PRC to certify plants to export processed poultry product to the United States.  The raw poultry used for these processed products must originate from countries outside the PRC that have been determined by FSIS to have an equivalent poultry slaughter inspection system.  The PRC is not approved to use poultry slaughtered in China for processed poultry products destined for export to the United States.  
If the processed product comes from China, it will be labeled as such, unless the product has been repacked in the United States.  FSIS expects that processed poultry from China will not typically be repacked in the United States.
FSIS has made the full audit report of the PRC processing inspection systems available to the public on the Agency’s Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/c3dab827-151d-4373-917f-139db6a2466d/China_2013_Poultry_Processing.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.
For more information on food safety, please visit the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
Sincerely,
 
Rachel A. Edelstein
Assistant Administrator
Office of Policy and Program Development
 
Protecting public health by preventing foodborne illnesses is FSIS’ top priority,
but food safety and the four food safety steps are important to everyone.
 
CleanSeparate CookChill
 
Check Your Steps at http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/ 
 
     Well, don't you feel better now?  That they will be checking China's inspection RECORDS once a year for three years?  Of course, we can never verify that the inspections really checked on any conditions anywhere.  And that there may be occasions where processed poultry from China is repacked in the USA and it will not be labeled "Processed in China"?  Or that it may be coming from anywhere in the world other than China (how will we ever know if some of the chicken does, indeed originate in China?)?
     We have our Congress to thank for this, after much lobbying by China and our own fast food industry, and maybe even by our country's poultry producers.  From this day on, I will never allow anyone in my family to ever again buy chicken nuggets from ANY source, nor any breaded or otherwise "prepared" chicken other than what I know has never left our shores.
      Remember when the pet food industry had a huge recall of pet food that was contaminated with melamine?  We weren't checking for melamine, because it was something we would never have expected in the food chain, but Chinese swindlers falsely elevated the protein content of wheat gluten by adulterating it with melamine, causing kidney failure in hundreds of American pets.  Do you want your children to be the next Guinea pigs for crap from China?

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