Chinese-Processed Chicken In School MealsWed 16 Apr 2014
Story by Bettina Elias Siegel
Does it seem crazy to ship American chicken to China and back - a round trip of 14,000 miles - just to have it cooked?
Well, that's exactly what may soon happen. Last August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that four Chinese plants have been certified to process chicken raised and slaughtered in this country, and then ship that cooked chicken back to us for human consumption. The USDA’s move is considered to be a preliminary step toward eventually allowing China to export its own raw poultry into this country, in exchange for China’s opening up its lucrative beef market to American beef producers.
But China's food safety system is decades behind ours, with lax enforcement of laws that are inconsistently applied.
As a result, here are just a few of the country's recent, terrible food safety scandals:
• More than 300,000 Chinese children have suffered illness, and several have died, from melamine-tainted milk powder.
• More than $1 million worth of rat and other small mammal meat has been sold to Chinese consumers as lamb.
• Last year, according to news reports, a Chinese poultry supplier provided Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in China with chicken fattened by large quantities of illegal drugs.
• Here in our own country, the FDA recently warned pet owners not to feed their pets jerky treats from China.
Yet, despite these concerns, there will be no on-site USDA inspectors in the Chinese facilities and the processed chicken won't have to bear “Country Of Origin Labeling,” which means consumers won't know if they're purchasing or eating chicken processed in China.
Even worse, Chinese-processed chicken can be used in school meals and other federal child nutrition programs, despite the fact that children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illnesses and dangerous chemicals.
In light of these serious concerns, I and two respected food activists, Nancy Huehnergarth and Barbara Kowalcyk, launched a petition on Change.org in January to keep Chinese-processed chicken out of school meals and to prevent any importation of raw chicken that's been raised and slaughtered in China.
To date, our petition has garnered an amazing 316,000 signatures! We also had the opportunity last week to hold a briefing, along with other food safety experts, in Washington, D.C. to better inform members of Congress and the media of our concerns, and we met individually with various Congressional members later that day. Interested in helping? Sign and share our our petition, call or email your own representatives in Congress and tell them how you feel about Chinese-processed and slaughtered chicken or send a tweet to the four congressional representatives named in our petition.
About the author: Bettina Elias Siegel blogs about children and food policy at The Lunch Tray. In 2012, she led a successful Change.org petition against the use of lean, finely textured beef (aka “pink slime”) in school meals, an effort that was supported by Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation (USA).
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