Chinese Chicken…Coming to a Retailer Near You

In 2004, based in part on fears of spreading avian flu strains and in retaliation for the Chinese block on U.S. beef, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) banned the import of chicken from China into the United States. The country is no stranger to criticism for their food standards; during the 2012 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, U.S. atheletes brought 25,000 pounds of lean protein to China in order to serve the American athletes who were concerned about failing drug tests (namely those testing for steroids) if they ingested Chinese chicken.

Since the 2004 ban, numerous scandals have surfaced when various goods, imported from China, were found to be unfit for consumption or use. Items including pet food, toothpaste, and drywall have all come under scrutiny, and in 2008 China was rocked when melamine-tainted infant formula sickened over 50,000 Chinese infants. For these reasons, it came as a surprise to many when the USDA lifted the ban on imported processed chicken from the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The letter states:

As all outstanding issues have been resolved, the PRC may proceed with certifying a list of poultry processing establishments as meeting the FSIS requirements. These certified establishments may then begin exporting processed (heat-treated/cooked) poultry products to the United States under the conditions established in FSIS’ April 2006 Final rule; i.e. only processed poultry products produced from poultry slaughtered under FSIS inspection in the United States or in a country eligible to export slaughtered poultry to the United States.

According to NPR, there are currently four Chinese manufacturers that are eligible for import. The imported chicken does not have to bear a “country of origin” sticker because the manufacturers can only import processed chicken that was raised in the United States or Canada. As the New York Times reports, this move comes as the proposed sale of Smithfield Farms to a Chinese manufacturer is being discussed.