Over the summer, we were alarmed to learn that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow four Chinese facilities to process poultry raised and slaughtered in the United States, Canada, or Chile, then export the cooked poultry products back into the United States for human consumption.
China has an unusually troubling record when it comes to food safety. Specific instances include: dangerously high levels of mercury found in Chinese baby formula; more than 16,000 diseased pig carcasses dumped in a river to rot; more than $1 million worth of rat and other small mammal meat sold to Chinese consumers as lamb; and more than 300,000 Chinese children sickened, with several dying, from melamine-tainted milk powder.
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. And in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned pet owners not to feed their pets jerky treats from China. Since 2007, approximately 600 dogs and cats in the United States have mysteriously died, and 3,600 have been sickened from eating Chinese pet treats, including those containing chicken or duck.
Yet despite these concerns, chicken can now be processed in China and sent back to this country for human consumption even though there will be no on-site USDA inspectors in Chinese processing facilities to ensure food safety. Furthermore, Chinese-processed chicken does not have to bear “Country Of Origin Labeling,” which means that consumers will not know if they are purchasing or eating chicken processed in China.
To make matters worse, under USDA rules, Chinese-processed chicken can be used in the National School Lunch Program and other federal child nutrition programs, despite the fact that children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illnesses and dangerous chemicals.
Even more alarming is that chicken raised and slaughtered in China may eventually be imported directly into the United States, despite the fact that a December 2013 USDA audit found that China’s poultry slaughter system is not yet equivalent to that of the United States in terms of food safety practices.
Given the many reported, critical lapses in China's enforcement of its food safety laws, both Chinese-processed and Chinese-slaughtered poultry could pose a potential threat to public health in the United States, and immediate action by Congress and the President is needed.
By starting this petition, we urge Congress, President Obama, and his administration to stop chicken from, or processed in, China from reaching our supermarkets and the meals we feed our school children by:
(1) Ensuring that Chinese-processed chicken is not included in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program; and
(2) Preventing funds from being used to implement any rule that would allow poultry raised or slaughtered in China to be exported to the United States.
Fourteen members of Congress have already publicly supported these goals in an open letter to the Agricultural Appropriations Committee.
We, Bettina Siegel and Nancy Huehnergarth are concerned parents who care a great deal about food and food safety. Please join with us and these lawmakers to show Congress, President Obama, and his administration that American consumers care about food safety for themselves and their families. Thank you!