Guangzhou officials reported in February that more than 30 percent of live poultry markets were infected with bird flu. SCMP Pictures

Proposed Rule Would Permit China to Export Poultry Products to U.S.

The Trump administration will publish a proposed rule Friday that would permit the People's Republic of China (PRC) to export its own poultry products to the U.S. It is doing so because U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claims that the PRC's food safety inspection system is equivalent to ours. The decision comes on the heels of the PRC agreeing to resume importing U.S. beef after a 14-year ban.

We can't let trade trump food safety. While China will get U.S. beef that underwent strong food safety regulatory oversight, U.S. consumers will be subject to imports from a country whose own public health officials admit has weak food safety enforcement.

The PRC has experienced numerous avian influenza outbreaks that have led to the death of hundreds of thousands of birds. Some of the strains have been so virulent that they have killed humans that came into contact with infected poultry. At last count, there have been 268 reported human deaths since October 2016. In February, a multinational group of scientists published a study in which they found that antibiotic strains of pathogens run rampant in Chinese poultry.

Food safety scandals have continued to plague the PRC in recent years. In 2008, dairy products tainted with melamine killed six infants and caused 300,000 Chinese consumers to be hospitalized. Other food safety violations include food processing establishments recovering and reusing used cooking oil from street gutters; another food processor marinating duck meat in sheep urine in order to pass it off as lamb meat, another meat merchant marinating pork in chemicals to disguise it as beef; and companies manufacturing and exporting poultry-flavored pet treats tainted with toxins that sickened thousands of pets in the U.S.

What makes the proposed rule even more odious is that the PRC had decided to designate in advance two plants operated by Cargill as being able to export Chinese poultry products to the U.S., should the rule be finalized. Cargill is now reportedly trying to qualify to sell its U.S. beef to China—a win for Cargill, but a big loss for consumers.

To make matters worse, processed poultry from the PRC will not be subject to country of origin labeling requirements, leaving consumers completely in the dark about what they are buying and feeding to their families.

There will be a 60-day public comment period once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. Food & Water Watch urges consumers to tell USDA to cancel this dubious proposed rule when the comment period opens Friday.

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