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Organic Consumers Association

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Get Ready to Eat Chinese Chickens

China has sold rat meat billed as lamb, gutter oil billed as cooking oil and baby formula contaminated with melamine. In the U.S. its pet food killed many dogs and cats in 2007. But this spring the U.S. agreed to import cooked chickens from China. Why? Because China agreed to accept U.S. beef imports after a 13-year "mad cow" scare in which many countries refused U.S. beef.

In June, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue flew to China to ink the agreement.

No USDA officials will be onsite at the Chinese chicken processing plants. They will, instead, "self-verify" the safety of their food products as plants are increasingly doing in the U.S. under the dubious "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points" program. (More on that later.) The National Chicken Council says the processed chicken will have "increased inspection upon entry into the United States" and that substandard exporters will be disqualified. "The good thing about it is our food safety inspection agency, in the USDA, does a marvelous job," agrees Secretary Perdue.

Yet a quick look at how the U.S. government ensures the safety of imported shrimp, much of it from Asia, raises many doubts. Take for example the on-site certifiers that the FDA uses to ensure the safety of imported shrimp. By the FDA's own audit, six out of eight of the certifiers did not even know what drugs and chemicals were approved in U.S. exports. Nice. In addition to problems with data collection and language barriers which the FDA notes, third party certifiers are paid by the companies seeking to export to the U.S. Talk about incentives to look the other way.

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