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Ensuring Safety of Imported Processed Chicken from China

On August 30th, FSIS announced the results of our verification audit of China’s poultry processing inspection system, which reaffirmed the equivalence of China’s poultry processing system.  This determination was made after a long and careful review by our expert auditors to ensure that China’s system for processed poultry meets the United States’ safety standards.  FSIS’ core mission is food safety and our staff works hard and diligently to ensure that the U.S. food supply remains safe.  Since the announcement of the audit results, our agency has received several inquires regarding this determination so I want to take the time to explain this process and clarify any misperceptions.

Let me start with explaining what this “equivalence” determination means.  If a country wants to export FSIS regulated product to the United States, as a regulatory agency, we are required to review this request and conduct an audit to determine if their food safety system meets U.S. standards.  The process for determining China’s equivalence began in 2004, when China submitted a formal request to FSIS that the agency evaluate China’s poultry system to assess it equivalence and thus its eligibility to export poultry products to the United States.  After an extensive audit, FSIS granted China “equivalence” for processed poultry in 2006 which meant that China was eligible to export cooked chicken to the U.S. as long as the raw poultry was from an approved source.  FSIS began rulemaking and published a final rule in the Federal Register, adding China to the list of countries eligible to export cooked poultry to the United States.  However, the 2008 appropriations bill prohibited FSIS from using funding to implement the final rule that allowed China to export processed chicken.  In 2010, the appropriations ban was lifted and China submitted a new request for an equivalence audit.

In March 2013, FSIS’ conducted another equivalence audit for cooked poultry since so much time had lapsed since the previous audit in 2004.  This audit included:

  • A document review process, where FSIS staff examined China’s laws and regulations related to food safety to ensure they meet U.S. standards; and
  • On-site audits, where a technical team visited China to view various aspects of the inspection system, including plant facilities and equipment, laboratories, training programs, and in-plant inspection operations.

FSIS’ audit team reviewed six components of China’s food safety system: (1) government oversight; (2) statutory authority and food safety regulations; (3) sanitation controls; (4) HACCP systems; (5) chemical residue control programs, and; (6) microbiological testing programs.  After a thorough assessment of these components and of the results of our on-site audits, FSIS determined that China had demonstrated that its system for processed poultry meets the United States standard for equivalency, provided that the raw poultry is from FSIS-approved sources (currently the U.S., Canada and Chile).

While China has been granted initial equivalence for processed poultry, there are standards that the country must uphold to maintain equivalence.  For example, FSIS will conduct annual reviews of the equivalency status and on-site audits to ensure that Chinese establishments are in compliance.  Further, our inspectors conduct port-of-entry re-inspections for all imported products.  These inspection activities focus more intently on products from countries that are just beginning to export to the United States and thus will provide direct evidence of how China’s inspection system is performing.  Further, before China can begin sending cooked chicken to the U.S., they must certify plants that will process the chicken for export, and provide this list to FSIS.  To date, this has not been done and China has not provided a timeframe for when they intend to begin exporting to the U.S.I visited China two weeks ago as part of our agency’s pledge to maintain an open and ongoing dialogue with the country.  We believe that maintaining this dialogue is essential to China’s understanding of its responsibilities when exporting to the U.S.  FSIS doesn’t compromise when it comes to food safety, and this determination to grant China equivalency for processed poultry is no exception.  FSIS’ comprehensive inspection program based on equivalency, continuous monitoring and inspection at import, and system audits, are critical to protecting the health and well-being of American families.  The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, and our staff is dedicated to maintaining this status.

37 Responses to “Ensuring Safety of Imported Processed Chicken from China”

  1. mary says:

    Considering the things China has put in food it feeds its own people, and the terrible things they have used on toys sold in this country you have not convinced me they will not taint chicken headed for our corporate overlords like McDonalds to sell to the masses. I am also not convinced our corporate overlords are going to care if the American public is poisoned by Chinese chicken. They will only care that they can continue to sell their McNuggets for the same or higher price with same or greater profit margin. Call me cynical, I will agree.

  2. Tony Corbo says:

    Annual audits for so-called “equivalent” countries used to be the norm until the current regime at USDA gutted the import inspection program at FSIS in 2009. So, China is going to be subject to what was the norm not too long ago. Wow. I am impressed. First, we should not be importing any food stuffs from China because of the abysmal food safety record that country has. Second, in order to be absolutely confident that China is processing the poultry to our standards and they are not cooking their own raw poultry instead of that from “approved sources,” we consumers need to have USDA inspection staff stationed in the Chinese plants to watch. We have all heard about the rat meat being sold as mutton in China and just last week pork that was chemically treated was being sold as beef in a city that has a large Muslim population in China. Substituting chicken that was grown in China for chicken we send to them for processing would not be a big stretch. Third, we need to strengthen our country of origin labeling regulations to require labeling for processed foods at the supermarket and in restaurants. Only then will consumers be able to avoid this charade that USDA is foisting on us.

  3. Appstar Financial says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this! Very informative. I’m sure this is very helpful for other people too who are into Payment processing programs.

  4. US CONSUMER says:

    Why would I allow my children to eat that?
    Are you out of your mind?
    Mr. Almanza, who do you think you are?

  5. Robert Lieb says:

    And you announce this news quietly so no one notices? Sounds like you have been bought and paid for by corporate interests and have little faith in the safety of the food.

    No thanks, I will no longer be buying any processed chicken at all if this continues.

  6. Karen Fillman says:

    Exactly how long HAS the USDA been an advocate for Big Agriculture at the expense of the US consumer? You must think we’re stupid. At least now we KNOW we’re being thrown under the bus.

  7. Richard Syverson says:

    Americans will get sick and die because of this.Will there be any jobs left for Americans? I think someone at usda was paid off or you are a bunch of fools.

  8. Eileen says:

    I have stopped eating chicken since this announcement, and will continue boycotting chicken. More and more referendums and such have been passed requiring more food labeling. At least we deserve to know the entire route a chicken took to get to our table, so those that don’t care about American jobs and health can be put out of business. Why is the government harboring such people? If it is really for beef to be imported to China, a lot of that is coming from Mexico these days anyway, so it’s a lose, lose all around.

  9. Carol says:

    I have already stopped buying Smithfield products and now I have to stop buying chicken? The USDA should mandate labeling for all Americans. The choice should be ours whether we buy food from China or not. I am sure there are millions of Americans that would pay more money for food processed in the US. Shame on you!

  10. Jane says:

    This is not acceptable. Don’t you keep up with the FDA’s investigation of pet jerky with chicken coming from China? It’s made 3,600 dogs and 10 cats sick and killed 580 dogs since 2007. Why are you willing to do the same to U.S. citizens? I don’t eat Smithfield products anymore and will not eat chicken once it’s being imported. You are obviously not representing the best interest of the people.

  11. CKrege says:

    Thank you, Mr. Almanza, for the clarification. I appreciate the transparency about how FSIS is creating its equivalencies with other countries. I am wondering though about the necessity of creating a chicken inspection equivalency with China. It seems that the only occasion when it would be beneficial to import chicken would be if China could produce it at less cost than the U.S. could. If this is not the case, then we should not be importing chicken. However, if China can produce chicken more cheaply, even with the added cost to us of inspecting it upon import, why is that the case? Are they providing subpar chicken or mixing it with cheaper meats? I think it is a matter of concern that China may be cutting corners to cut cost.

  12. Barney says:

    As we learned from Deep Throat and Watergate, “follow the money”. Once again the majority of American people are being duped into thinking “this will be good for you.” The only people that benefit from processed chicken from China are the owners of huge, non-inspected US chicken factories and the Chinese processing plants. And when the next e-coli or bird flu shows up here, they’ll point their fingers at each other while Americans get sick and die. The Chinese have always acknowledged bribery as just a part of doing business and I wish someone could look at the bank accounts of the department heads at the USDA – the money doesn’t lie.

  13. Kathy says:

    This is not the fault of China, this is the fault of the USDA!! We already know tainted dog treats from China are killing our pets and you want to put our childrens lives in Chinas hands, Insane.

  14. XTZH says:

    Don’t forget that 90% Chinese river and underground was contaminated by harmful compounds and metals, it is not safety for their chicken meat. !

  15. Kay Russ says:

    Seriously?? Imported chicken from China? What are you people thinking? You are showing absolutely no concern for the health and safety of the American public. Shame on all of you and whatever motivates you.

  16. EP says:

    I cannot even begin to imagine how contaminated any chicken coming from China is! After all, it is the most polluted industrialized nation in the world! Sounds like a great idea to allow chickens to be imported here…I am disgusted and appalled by this article. Thank you USDA for truly looking out for the health of the American people.

    United States of China, here we come :(

  17. MD says:

    For goodness sake! Please at least require there to be large stamps on the foods and any prepared food establishments! I feel that the USDA owes the American public that courtesy. I would certainly want to make that decision for myself and my family to feed them China raised or processed poultry! Don’t blind-side us!

  18. PJ says:

    Just saw story on Dr. Oz about importing processed chicken products from China. I think we deserve to know when any food product comes from China. They’ve proven to us that they can’t be trusted. I will never eat a product containing processed chicken again if this is allowed to happen.

  19. Stan says:

    Sounds great in theory. However, inspections once a year and pre-arranged will be useless. There needs to be strict labeling of where the chicken originated from and where it was processed. Then let the people chose what they want to eat.

  20. ep says:

    How many of these chicken are going to die in transport? Are they going to processes them too & send it back to us? It’s all about money, they don’t care at all about the health of the people in this country. What about the workers that will be loosing their jobs?

  21. Elle says:

    Considering the conditions in China, as per the story on the Dr. Oz show, I would hate to imagine how the USDA can make such an allowance to have our USA raised chicken be processed in China and bringing it back here. Seems like this is NOT a win/win situation. This quid pro quo comes at a risk to Americans, given their food health history. Their standards are so low in as far as the food safety system. This is win/lose situation. Americans end up losing all around.

  22. Afraid of Bad Decisions says:

    What moral decay has caused the USDA to completely disregard the health of the American people ? While we are promoting better health, we are simultaneously being sabotaged by our own regulations, or lack thereof. Is this something that can be discussed ? At a minimum, we need to have the choice to consume questionable products of any kind. The fact that labeling of these products will not happen, leads me to think this is to sneak subpar products into the food supply. And it will be hard to track negative actions. Please reconsider this decision immediately. We deserve better than this !

  23. Wendy L Basham says:

    I am appalled at this decision. It is time for us as citizens to say no to this awful scheme. How many diseased and dead pigs and chickens have floated down major rivers in China? What in the world has possessed the USDA to make such a horrendous decision? What does it take for the USDA to allow this to happen? What major companies will be importing and selling this ‘mystery meat’? I want their names so I can never support those companies again. Check your decision- making process – it is obviously not protecting our own country’s health, welfare, and economy! Shame on you!!

  24. south side Mike says:

    BIG NAME COMPANYS WILL BE INVOLVED, NEVER EAT ANY PROCESSED CHICKEN. THIS INCLUDES HOT DOGS CHICKEN SOUP, CHICKEN NUGGETS

  25. south side Mike says:

    you can tell that Washington has a lot of Chicago people there, THE CHICKEN THAT IS RAISED IN THE usa AND SHIPPED TO cHINA THEN PROCESSED AND SHIPPED BACK WILL NOT BE LABELED FRM CHINE, IT WILL SAY FROM USA. WHY THE CON

  26. Chris Isaacson says:

    We all know how bad factories in China are: Antifreeze in toothpaste; Lead in toys; Lead in fabric; Poisons in toys; Poisons in dog treats. I could go on and on but you already have a long list I`m sure. How many Americans have to be killed by products from China before you decide we are more important than money?

  27. south side mike says:

    LOOK UP CHINESE CRUDE. THEY TAKE THE FLOATING OILY GOO FROM SEWERS AND SELL IT TO FOOD PRODUCERS TO COOK FOOD. THE USDA SAYS IT IS ALL GOOD. JUST AS LONG AS WE DO NOT DRINK 20 OZ. SODAS OR EAT SWEET SNACKS. THE USDA WOULD SAY IT WAS OK IF THE SODE CAME FROM CHINA.

  28. south side mike says:

    SORRY , THEY CALL IT GUTTER CRUDE.

  29. us national says:

    Absurdity. Let’s take the chicken we poorly raise in the US and send them in freights across the ocean, so the Chinese can process it into nuggets and who knows exactly what else, to be boarded back on a freight to again cross the ocean to be sold here in the US. And the government is trying so hard to create jobs? First let’s send all manufacturing jobs across the sea, then let’s pay for the auto bailout only for the companies to set up production in another country, now let’s send our food processing again it of the country. Are we really this incapable of making anything ourselves anymore? Chicken sales will plummet Almanza. I will be sure everyone I know is aware of this processed chicken policy. It’s not just about the health control.

  30. Debra says:

    I will under no circumstances be comsuming food from China. The practices have proven unsafe and I really don’t understand why we are not buying the food grown and raised in the US!? I just read in AARP that we are shipping chickens to China to be slaughtered, processed and then shipped back. Is this a bad dream!! I plan to only start buying and eating locally raised foods or packaged foods from the US period. If we all do this – these insane practices will stop because money will not be made. And a person who wrote previously is right it IS about the almighty dollar, as disgusting as it is. It’s enough to kill your appetite.

  31. Melissa says:

    What is wrong with your organization to allow our consumable foods be processed in China?

    They’ve poisoned our pet foods, childrens toys and have been shipping dust made from their babies because ‘it’s good for your labido’.

    Clearly you do not care about our health.

    For starters, how old will that meat be by the time it returns? You won’t require labeling so that consumers can opt out of purchasing the putrid meat?

    Screw your organization, you’re a waste of tax dollars.

    I’m not fooled, shame on you.

  32. June Calvin says:

    This is astonishing and disturbing news. I do not think ANY food products should be imported from China right now. They have little regulation and their businessmen have been known to adulterate food and medicine with harmful, even poisonous products. Our American chicken is risky enough. Please rescind this ruling and keep our chicken processing here, and improve inspection of chicken raising and processing.

  33. Becky says:

    This proves, once again, that the government of the United States is certainly NOT BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE. Those days are long gone. I wouldn’t feed anything that has been handled by, or near that country, to a rat!

    We have the right to know not only where our food originated from, as in grown, but also where has it been!

    Shame on the United States! Shame shame shame….

  34. Bart iannaccone says:

    I thought the u s a produced enough chicken ,pork, and beef for our own consumption.I read that Tyson foods was purchased by China,why would we buy chicken from a country that has such bad e p a and pollution record.the Chinese steal our nation’s secrets,and lies when they are confronted with the truth.isn’t this the same country that has bought us contaminated sheetrock,counterfeit prescription drugs,helped our enemies in Korea, north Vietnam,they already have Venezuela in their pocket.listen buying chicken or any food products from China is a very,very bad idea.unfortunately if this deal goes thru the consumers in this country could be poisoned,before our food inspectors realize what’s going on.I reinterate buying food from our enemies is a very,very , very bad idea and the American people should be able to have a say where the food they consume comes from, not some bureaucrat who made a deal got his commission and then some with the devil,LET THEM EAT THEIR OWN CHICKEN,AND CONTINUE TO USE THEIR CONTAMINATED SHEET ROCK ,AND DRINK ICED TEA WITH THEIR CONTAMINATED WATER THAT THEY WOULD GIVE THE CHICKENS THAT THEY WOULD SELL US.I WANT TO SAY MORE BUT WHOEVER MADE OR SUGGESTED THIS DEAL SHOULD BE REPRIMANDED AND FIRED

  35. Jeanne Reed says:

    This is ridiculous …I will not buy anything but fresh chicken to cook at home, and I will not buy chicken out in restaurant. My family already looks to see where the catfish, shrimp, and fish products come from, especially if it is cheaper or looks too good to be MS and USA products. We have no control over what the Chinese will or will not do to our homegrown chickens. This processed chicken will end up in Institutions like schools, hospitals, and etc. Our US government is setting our youth, elderly, soldiers, and ill, mentally and physically, UP for FAILURE and HEALTH PROBLEMS. This is totally unacceptable to TRUST the Chinese with our HEALTH plus the Whole Process is ABSURD! Our US citizens need jobs; we DO NOT want our US Agriculture products cooked and processed to another country and come back REPURPOSED. I understand USDA inspectors will not be allowed to inspect the factories/plants/facilities in China but once a year, ANNOUNCED VISIT …BE FOR REAL! PLUS ALL THE WASTED TIME, SENDING OUR CHICKEN TO CHINA AND BACK to our Food Supply! We are talking about Poultry products, and look at what the Turkey and Chicken Jerky from China has killed our PETS! Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

  36. Billie Stephens says:

    I will not feed my family ANY products with processed chicken in it. Really, how stupid do you think we are. We’re still losing pets due to tainted chicken treats. Do you really think anyone will feed this to their families once they find out. I intend to tell everyone I know. I have no faith that the USDA will protect out foods. I also intend to vote so that we will have more control over what happens with the USDA and the FDA. No more shenanigans at our expense.

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