Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C. — Today, the House-Senate Conference Committee on the FY 2010 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Appropriations reached an agreement on the importation of processed poultry and processed poultry products from the People’s Republic of China, provided that several conditions were met. The U.S. Congress enacted bans on the importation of such products for FY 2008 and FY 2009 because the Bush Administration rushed the approval process through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) even though its own inspectors found serious food safety problems in Chinese poultry processing and slaughter facilities when audits were conducted of those facilities in 2004 and 2005.
“The language adopted by the conferees places the following stipulations on USDA before China can export processed poultry to the U.S.:
- USDA is not to give preferential consideration to any application from China to export processed poultry or processed poultry products to the U.S.
- USDA is to conduct fresh reviews of the Chinese poultry inspection systems, processing facilities, and laboratories to determine whether they meet U.S. food safety and inspection standards before any Chinese facilities are certified as eligible to ship poultry products to the U.S.
- Those reviews will be made public no later than 30 days from the date they are finalized.
- Congress is to be notified if the number of Chinese processing facilities eligible to export to the U.S. exceeds ten.
- Certified Chinese poultry processing facilities will be subject to at least annual on-site reviews by USDA inspection personnel.
- Imported processed poultry products from China will be subject to a significantly increased level of inspection at U.S. ports-of-entry.
- Any proposal to permit the importation of processed poultry and processed poultry products of domestic Chinese origin would be subject to rulemaking, require public notice and comment and would be considered a “significant rule” requiring additional scrutiny by the White House Office of Management and Budget before it is approved.
- USDA will report to Congress within 120 days from enactment of the bill and every 180 days thereafter of all of its activities surrounding the importation of processed poultry and poultry products from the People’s Republic of China.
“These additional safeguards will make the process more transparent, provide for more congressional oversight and provide U.S. consumers an opportunity to assess the food safety standards of Chinese poultry facilities before any processed poultry products are exported to the United States.
“Pressure to increase trade cannot trump the responsibility to maintain strong imports standards to protect public health. This agreement grants the opportunity for Congress and the public to ensure common-sense oversight in the name of food safety.”