The Obama Administration has quietly opened up the U.S. market to Chinese chicken – a move that alarms some public interest groups. Many consumers avoid China foods, including pet foods, due to a long series of contaminated and poisoned products coming from that country. Now the U.S. will allow four Chinese poultry plants to send processed chicken to American markets while hiding their origin. The problem is that by cooking the chicken, China can avoid new country-of-origins labels (COOL) at delis and other stores — resulting in consumers eating Chinese food products without knowing it.
The Chinese plants passed inspection and will be able to start processing chicken that has been slaughtered in the U.S. or other countries. This follows a hold on the operation after outbreaks of bird flu occurred this year in China, causing human illness and death.
A petition from Food and Water Watch accused the Administration of caving to Chinese pressure to secure a broader market for U.S. beef imports and said that China continues to fall behind on health and industry standards:
“It has been no secret that China has wanted to export chicken to the U.S. in exchange for reopening its market for beef from the U.S. that has been closed since 2003 due to the diagnosis of a cow in Washington State with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease. Today’s audit report reveals yet again that USDA is willing to allow trade to trump food safety.”
The loophole in country-of-origins labels (COOL) worries many that they will not be able to choose to avoid Chinese products. Presumably, delis, schools, and stores can still alert consumers but those using the cheaper products are unlikely to do so (though presumably delis and stores could advertise that they are China-product free as many pet stores have done).
Raw imported meat or fish have a COOL label describing where it was raised, slaughtered and processed. Chinese cooked meat will not have such a label and may be coming to schools and stores near you.