September 17, 2019

Congresswoman Questions USDA Equivalency of China’s Poultry Processing Plants

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) recently wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, questioning the USDA’s process approving China’s poultry processing plants. These plants are now able to export processed chicken to the United States.  She expresses concern about the way the USDA has approved those plants.

China's Poultry Processing Plants

Her letter states that she opposed the equivalency designation because “it irresponsibly granted equivalency to the entire country’s poultry processing system despite FSIS having only audited a limited number of China’s poultry processing plants.” She also states that the recent release of internal emails shows that “FSIS is taking a stunningly passive approach in approving three new Chinese poultry processing as eligible to export to the United States.”

The emails are between China’s Certification and Accreditation Administration and FSIS officials. Requests for confirmation about oversight were unanswered by Chinese government officials for weeks. When the Chinese government responded, the exchange showed that FSIS accepted a confirmation of the country’s  food safety oversight procedures through a vague email response.

The first question Congresswoman DeLauro has for the agency is if the USDA believes that granting equivalency to the entire Chinese poultry processing system based on a small number of audits in a limited amount of Chinese provinces was a responsible decision. She would also like to know how the Department justifies this determination.

In addition, the Congresswoman would like to know if any of the newly certified Chinese poultry processing plants have been recently inspected by any authoritative body? She also stated that according to a September 2017 report by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General the FSIS performance rating for China was “adequate,” so there should be an Ongoing Equivalence Verification Audit every year, but the last on-site audit took place in 2016.

DeLauro is not the only consumer advocate concerned about chicken imported from China. Food & Water Watch has been worried about the issue for years. Most recently, a letter from Executive Director Wenonah Hauter stated that there is no USDA inspector stationed in Chinese poultry processing facilities, China’s food safety system has many serious deficiencies, and no Country of Origin label is required because the poultry is processed.

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