USDA Cheating Own Rules to Expedite Increase in Processed Chicken Imports From China



Food & Water Watch is concerned about some USDA records it stumbled upon that show political pressure was applied to allow an increase in Chinese chicken imports without following proper safety protocol. More interesting than the agency taking shortcuts, however, is the question of why it did: to promote U.S. beef interests.At least that's a potential explanation, supported in part by information Food & Water Watch obtained through a FOIA request. The group found that "pressure on the USDA to approve the rule was based in part on U.S. efforts to reopen the U.S. beef trade with China, which was banned after mad cow disease was discovered in a cow in Washington State in 2003."

The group said that the USDA made mistakes and didn't follow proper procedure for naming China an approved exporter of processed poultry products to the U.S.

Among Food & Water Watch's findings:

USDA missed required steps in the approval process and failed to send the rule to the USDA Office of Civil Rights for review;

USDA staff made incorrect public statements that consumers would be able to avoid Chinese poultry imports, despite the fact that country of origin labeling requirements would not apply to processed poultry products;

FSIS provided different sets of data for the potential economic impact of processed poultry imports from China on the domestic poultry industry.

"We now have evidence of instances where the USDA broke its own rules," said Wenonah Hauter, the group's executive director. "China's food safety system is virtually non-existent."

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