The “Made in China” label may now be appropriate for your chicken nuggets, fast food chicken sandwiches, and even those square chunks of chicken in your favorite can of soup.
China makes many products that the United States uses; the next product you’ll find on your grocery store shelves? Chicken.
Yep, your chicken nuggets and other processed chicken products could be coming from China before you know it. Unfortunately, you’ll probably never know, as labeling isn’t required.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) quietly lifted the ban on chicken imports on August 29, 2013, the Friday before a long holiday weekend.
So why is this not a cause for celebration? There are a few reason that allowing chicken imports from China may not be the best idea. On the other hand, domestic chicken may not be any safer, as the government is now allowing company representatives to do safety inspections, rather than government workers – a new policy based on incomplete data.
Chicken From China: Label Not Required
The only countries that are approved to raise chickens by the USDA are the United States, Canada, and Chile. These countries will raise the chickens, slaughter them and then ship them to China to be cooked and processed; all to be sent back to the United States for sale and consumption. A world-tour for chickens makes logical sense right?
Once the chicken is cooked and processed, no country of origin label is required. Arianne Perkins, Food Safety Inspection Services spokeswoman told CBS News that imported chicken products will have a label when they reache the United States; however, individual companies will then decide whether or not to keep the label on or not.
Chinese Chicken Plant Inspection Process
As of now, only four Chinese processing plants will be able to process and export chicken, according to Politico. These four plants passed inspection when two USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) arrived on March 4, 2013 at the Beijing plants. The two officers spent 16 days examining China’s food safety system. According to CBS News, the inspectors created mock situations to test the plant workers on how to deal with a variety of situations, including how to test for Salmonella and Listeria, and what to do in case of contamination.
Although this is good news, there will not be a USDA inspector onsite, according to the New York Times.
This is cause for concern as China has not had the best history when it comes to food safety.
Food Safety Concerns From China’s Past
According to Bloomberg, “for more than a decade China has earned a reputation as one of the world’s worst food safety offenders.” Within the past year, China has had concerns over bird flu outbreaks within their live markets, reports of fake poisonous mutton, and even the sale of 46 year-old chicken feet.
Even the Chinese people are smuggling infant formula from other countries because of the problems with tainted dairy products.
Not even pets are safe, China can export chicken for animal consumption as well… and as of December 2012, the U.S. FDA received 501 reports of dog dying and thousands of sick dogs after they consumed chicken jerky treats that were processed in China.