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Poultry leader praises ending ban of Chinese processed chicken imports

POSTED: September 7, 2013 11:49 p.m.

Those chicken nuggets you enjoy may no longer be under the wing of a U.S. processing plant.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced with little fanfare in a press release the Friday before Labor Day weekend that it was ending a ban on processed chicken imports from China.

Mike Giles, president of the Gainesville-based Georgia Poultry Federation that advocates for pro-industry legislation and policies, gave a glowing endorsement of the decision.

“Free and fair trade policies are the goal of agricultural producers and exporters in the United States,” Giles said. “We believe that the standards governing trade should apply equally to all trading partners and that these standards should be based on sound scientific principles. If it is fair for producers in the United States to have access to foreign markets, it is also fair for producers in other countries to have access to U.S. markets as long as the standards are equivalent.”

The decision came upon the conclusion of a Food and Drug Administration audit of select facilities, which will be the only facilities allowed to process meat for the time being.

“USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has conducted an exhaustive review and audit of certain poultry processing facilities in China and determined their inspection systems to be equivalent to the systems used in the United States,” Giles said.

Processed meat does not require country-of-origin labeling, so there will be no way for consumers to know on which continent their meat was processed.

Any product imported from China would undergo reinspection at U.S. ports-of-entry, Giles said.

The U.S. blocked imports of Chinese poultry when the bird flu virus broke out among Asian bird flocks in 2004. China challenged that decision in front of the World Trade Organization, and a three-member panel declared that the American ban on Chinese poultry was illegal.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service, simultaneous with the announcement, released a series of responses to frequently asked questions in anticipation of consumer concerns.

Giles also made clear the boundaries of the agreement.

“If China certifies facilities to export to the United States, only chicken that has been fed, grown and slaughtered in the United States or Canada originally can be processed further in China for export back to the United States,” he said. “These poultry products — originally grown in the United States or Canada — would have to be fully cooked before they would be allowed to be imported into the United States.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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