In a stunning development, considering China’s horrendous food safety record, the USDA has approved four Chinese poultry processors to begin shipping meat to the U.S.Initially, the poultry will be restricted to cooked meat from birds raised in the U.S. But savvy USDA food policy critics know all to well that the rules will change in the future, and China will be allowed to export poultry raised and slaughtered in China.
Among those critics is Tony Corbo, a senior lobbyist for the advocacy group Food and Water Watch. “This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S.,” he told the Times.
As the Huffington Post’s Rachel Tepper points out, unlike other meat imported to the U.S., the poultry shipped by Chinese processors will not require point-of-origin labeling, because according to USDA rules, the labeling does not apply to foods that have been cooked.
“Consumers will have no way to tell if those chicken nuggets in the supermarket freezer were processed in the U.S. or in China,” writes Bloomberg correspondent Adam Minter. Moreover, the USDA will not require its own regulators to supervise the processors on premises.
Point-of-origin labeling rules went into effect in May, but meat producers oppose the rule, and in July, industry groups filed a suit against the USDA, claiming that demanding more information about a product’s origin on its label is too expensive and provides no benefit to public safety or health.
China’s Abominable Food Safety Record
As we’ve previously chronicled, from fish imported from China raised on human waste, to plastic rice, China is endlessly plagued by horrendous food scandals. Many wealthy Chinese have bought their own farms so as not to be dependent on what’s available in supermarkets.
There are also reports of special plots of land used to produce food exclusively for senior government officials.
Consider these food safety issues. And this is just a partial list, there’s more.
* An explosion at a Chinese poultry factory in June killed at least 119 people, and concerns over avian flu remain rampant. Earlier this year, 20,000 birds were euthanized after the human death toll in China rose to six.
* In a report regarding Chinese food exports to Europe, Cypriot inspectors found arsenic in the frozen calamari. “The Italians discovered maggots in the pasta. There were glass chips in the pumpkin seeds bound for Denmark, and Spanish regulators blocked a shipment of frozen duck meat because of forged papers.”
* In 2010, Chinese food safety officials seized 64 tonnes of raw dairy materials contaminated with the toxic industrial chemical melamine.
* In 2008, melamine was found in US baby formula. Around ninety percent of the infant formula sold in the US was contaminated with melamine which is linked to kidney failure. At least six babies died and another 300,000 became ill after drinking the tainted milk.
* Plastic Rice rice was distributed to the unsuspecting masses in China. The faux rice is made by combining potatoes and sweet potatoes into the shape of rice grains, then adding industrial synthetic resins as a binding agent. A Chinese official said that eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag.
* Chinese Food Producers Feed Farmed Fish Human Waste
Michael Doyle, a microbiologist with the University of Georgia, said food producers in China regularly use untreated human and animal waste for feeding farmed fish meant for eating and for fertilizing land to grow produce. Doyle claims feces is the primary nutrient for growing the tilapia in China.
* Pork Tainted With Clenbuterol and Ractopamine
China’s top meat processor, and over 1,300 pig farms were investigated for selling pork contaminated with the drugs clenbuterol and ractopamine. Clenbuterol, a bronchodilator known among farmers as “lean meat powder” is banned in China because of its serious side effects.
Ractopamine is also used as a feed additive to promote lean meat in pigs. In the US, ractopamine is the active ingredient found in the feed additive Paylean, which has the potential for causing cancer and cardiovascular disease.
* Diseased Ducks
A prominent Chinese poultry company “World’s Duck King”, sold diseased ducks. Consumers were supplied with ducks that died from a disease instead of being supplied with healthy ducks that were slaughtered. The ducks were sold to businessman Cui Jinping who processed them on the “black market” for resale as meat.
* Aflatoxin found in Chinese Cooking Oil
China suspended operations at plants owned by three companies which made peanut oil containing excessive levels of aflatoxin — the same type of cancer-causing toxin recently found in Chinese milk.
The oil was produced by Fusheng Oil, Manyi Peanut Oil and Mabao Oil. According to the World Health Organization, aflatoxins, caused by mold, affects grains and other agricultural products, and increases the risk of cancer, including liver cancer.
* Fake Chinese Honey Sold in US
More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t real honey. Test results reveal that pollen has been filtered out of the majority of honey on the market, and without pollen any product sold as honey is NOT honey.
Ultra filtering is a variation of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have for years illegally unloaded tons of their honey on the U.S. market, some of which contains illegal antibiotics.
* Chinese police discovered an illegal food smuggling plot to sell 46-year-old chicken feet treated with bleach, a criminal ring accused of selling rat and fox meat as lamb and abnormally high levels of cadmium, a metal that can cause cancer and other illnesses, in rice sold in Guangzhou restaurants.
* Chinese Watermelons Tainted with Growth Accelerator
One hundred and fifteen acres of watermelons tainted with a growth accelerator called forchlorfenuron exploded like land mines in eastern China. According to the EPA, Forchlorfenuron is a phenyl urea compound – a plant growth regulator registered for use on grapes raisins, and kiwifruit. Forchlorfenuron acts synergistically with natural auxins to promote plant cell division and lateral growth.
Chinese Buy America’s Largest Pork Producer
Another concern that even corrupt lawmakers on Capitol Hill are very nervous about is the acquisition of Smithfield Foods, America’s largest pork producer and processor, by Shuanghui International, a Chinese company.
In 2010, Shuanghui International — China’s leading pork producer — admitted that an illegal additive was put in its food products. Moreover, thousands of dead hogs were found earlier this year floating down the Huangpu River in Shanghai.
China’s entire food system is nothing short of a nightmare, plagued by report after report of some form of contamination. My advice: buy only locally grown organic chicken, pork and beef or don’t buy meat at all.