Prepare to hear some shocking news about the chicken nuggets you see in local supermarkets every day. It’s true that the USDA restricted the number of Chinese companies allowed to process poultry and then export it to the U.S.
Also, it allowed the companies to ship poultry products only from birds raised in Canada and the U.S.
However, it was a matter of question when would the government expand the rules. This would result in the companies using turkeys and chickens raised in China, and ending up in the U.S. market.
What’s worse, not only that these products are sold in the United States, but they don’t even have a point-of-origin label.
We can’t say China has a good food safety, especially in recent years. There were a series of shocking events such as plastic rice, contaminated “organic” food, rat meat falsely represented as mutton, or thousands of dead pigs found in the waters of Shanghai. So, you might ask why the USDA would approve food made in China?
The good news is that the chickens will be slaughtered in a country that’s allowed to ship slaughtered chicken to the United States (this includes the U.S.) Next, the slaughtered chicken will be exported to China for processing. Finally, the processed poultry will be re-exported to the U.S.
Now, the bad news. Apparently, there won’t be any USDA inspectors in the processing plants. This is rather concerning, especially since this is the first time China is allowed to export chicken to the United States. This would mean no guarantee of the slaughtering place.
No Point-of-Origin Label
According to the USDA rules, there’s no need for a country-of-origin label for cooked foods. So, since the chicken is processed, they don’t require a point-of-origin label. This means you’ll have to guess if you’re buying chicken nuggets processed in China or the U.S, New York Times reports.
The same thing happens for the U.S. seafood. As Seattle Times explains, the processing of the domestically caught Dungeness crab and Pacific salmon happens in China. Then, the processed seafood is exported to the U.S. It seems this is the most cost-saving procedure.
The founder of Trident, Charles Bundrant, explains the best way to remove the 36 pin bones in a salmon is by hand. His annual harvest estimates about 1.2 billion pounds, out of which 30 million pounds are shipped to China for processing.
He does this to save money. Something that would cost him 20 cents per pound labor in China, in the U.S. it’ll cost $1.
As it seems, the USDA didn’t sign-off on processed poultry exports from China in the interest of the U.S. consumers. Since the U.S. beef is not allowed for import into China, the U.S. poultry and beef manufacturers hope the Beijing can now do the same thing and open its market to more meat exports from the U.S.
The bottom line is that the goal of the USDA is reasonable. However, it doesn’t mean it should be done at the expense of the U.S. food safety.