Meat Plant Previously Passing USDA Audits Now Implicated in Chinese Food Safety Scandal

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Advocacy organization urges USDA to stop equivalency process for Chinese poultry imports

Washington, D.C. – In light of the recent scandal in China involving Shanghai Husi Foods Company consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch has sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to stop all activities that would pave the way for China to export their poultry products to the U.S. The company, which sold expired meat and poultry products to Chinese fast food restaurants and exported some of those products to Japan, had been audited by the USDA in 2004 and 2010—in an effort to establish equivalency status with U.S. processing plants and pave the way for imports.  

It has been nearly a decade since China made its initial request to send its poultry products to the U.S. and it still cannot get its act together,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Now, we have this scandal involving a subsidiary of a U.S. poultry processor that sold rotten poultry meat to fast food restaurants in China. Unless the USDA reverses course, food from this processor could land on our plates in the not too distant future.”

In 2006, USDA adopted a rule that granted China equivalency status to export processed poultry products to the U.S. provided that the raw poultry came from “approved sources.”  At that time, the only “approved sources” were the U.S. and Canada. When USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) conducted on-site visits of poultry processing facilities in China in 2004, the Shanghai Husi Foods plant was one of the plants the agency audited and found that there were no food safety issues. Those 2004 on-site audits served as the basis for the 2006 equivalency determination. In 2010, FSIS returned to that plant and gave it a clean bill of health again.

Because of congressional action that blocked the importation of poultry products from China for two years and because China never certified any plants under the 2006 regulation, no processed poultry products have been imported yet. China has been pressing the USDA to allow it to process its own poultry for export to the U.S. The agency will be sending auditors to China in September to determine whether the country has made changes to its slaughter inspection system to comply with U.S. requirements.

“The food inspection program is so weak that China’s own food safety officials concede that the system does not work. The USDA is unnecessarily putting U.S. consumers at risk by continuing to entertain China’s request to export its unsafe poultry to the U.S.,” said Hauter.

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