It’s Not Just Chicken from China
And don’t just worry about chicken from China. Processing plants here in the United States are also undergoing a change.
There are plans to remove the USDA inspectors at the processing plants and replace them with employees of the poultry companies.
The USDA piloted this new plan in 29 chicken plants, and hopes to save money and speed up processing times with the new process.
However, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) the USDA did not do a good job when they tested out the plan – as it based this new plan on data from plants 11 years ago and gathered data from a 20 year-old study.
The USDA also failed to look at the results from a pilot program similar to this in pork processing plants. The GAO concludes that cutting out the USDA workers may not do a better job of keeping out dangerous bacteria like Salmonella in the chickens that end up on your dinner table.
Food Safety Modernization Act
In January, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law. This act aims to shift the focus from reacting to contamination to prevention. “Within one year of enactment, the law directs FDA to inspect at least 600 foreign facilities and double those inspections every year for the next five years.”
For the first time, the FDA will have a legislative mandate to require science-based preventative controls across the food supply, this includes imported foods.
“For the first time importers will be required to have a program to verify that the products that they are bringing into this country are safe,” reports the FDA. Under this act, all foreign facilities will be required to register with the FDA.
According to CBS News, critics agree that allowing China to import processed chicken is one step closer to allowing imports of poultry and turkey raised in China. If this were to occur, the U.S. would need to address the concern over the bird flu among poultry, and reassure the American people that their chicken and turkey are safe.
As things stand, what can you do? Buy local whenever possible. Knowing where that chicken you are eating came from may be worth the extra price when it comes to your health – not to mention that it will help support small farmers right here in the United States.
U.S. Government Accountability Office. GAO report number GAO-13-775: ‘Food Safety: More Disclosure and Data Needed to Clarify Impact of Changes to Poultry and Hog Inspections. (2013). Accessed September 12, 2013.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Background on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Accessed September 11, 2013.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Final Report of Audit Conducted in People’s Republic of China. (2013). Accessed September 11, 2013.
Minter, Adam. Don’t Trust a Chicken Nugget That’s Visited China. (2013). Bloomberg. Accessed September 11, 2013.
CNN News. Officials say “okay” to processed chicken from China. (2013). Accessed September 11, 2013.
Godoy, Maria. Was Your Chicken Nugget Made In China? It’ll Soon Be Hard To Know. (2013). National Public Radio. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Tomson, Bill, Parti, Tarini. Audit gives China green light to process U.S. chicken. (2013). Politico. Accessed September 11, 2013.
The New York Times. Chinese Chicken Processors Are Cleared to Ship to U.S. August 30, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2013.
Kindy, Kimberly. New USDA poultry inspection procedures are based on bad data, government report says. (2013). Washington Post. Accessed September 11, 2013.