Food (Safety) Fight
By: richard raymond
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What's wrong with Chinese chicken?

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(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

"Chickety China, the Chinese Chicken. Eat a drum stick, and your brain stops tickin'." Words from "One Week", a song by the Canadian group Bare Naked Ladies. If you have kids in their early thirties, you know of this group.


 But Congress must have taken these words literally because they have banned cooked Chinese chicken supposedly so we can keep our brains tickin'. There is nothing about their action that is based on science, so I must assume they will quote these lyrics when responding to the WTO complaint filed by China.


The FSIS had done three audits of Chinese chicken slaughter and processing systems, and found them to be at least equivalent to the US systems, a prerequisite to any country wanting to export meat or poultry to the US. In addition, if a final rule had been promulgated in the usual open and transparent process, follow up activities would have included annual audits of the Chinese food safety system, and reinspection of all products exported to the United States. But FSIS has been effectively banned from using any appropriated funds to finalize the rule that was already in the process.


In an ironic twist, the EU, who does not think our antimicrobial treatments of poultry are an effective way of promoting food safety, has given approval for cooked Chinese chicken. And Japan, a nation noted for its almost fanatical emphasis on food safety, has also OK'd cooked Chinese chicken to be exported to Japan. 


To compound the irony going on here, let me provide you with two quotes:


May 2009 Meatingplace magazine, page 35, has Secretary Vilsack quoted as saying:  " In a recent meeting with [World Trade Organization] officials, I tried to point out that America wants the structure for trade to be based on rules and on science so that there is a greater transparency and there are not phyto-sanitary barriers constructed that are not based in science." 


US Trade Representative Kirk, in an address to the US Meat Export Federation, is quoted as saying "More than a dozen countries imposed trade restrictions on US agricultural products without scientific justification as a result of that outbreak" (referring to the H1 N1 flu).


Maybe I am  missing something here, but it seems to me that we are endorsing a double standard with our trading partners, and before you jump all over me about Melamine in pet food and antibiotics in fish, remember the differences in how FDA and USDA monitor imported foods for safety.


We need a frank discussion about this predicament we have put ourselves in before retaliation gets any worse.

6/2/2009 10:28 AM 


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