|By ANN HINCH
WASHINGTON, D.C. — USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined processed chicken from China, using approved birds from countries free of the avian influenza virus, will be safe for sale in the United States.
At present, Chinese processors may use only birds slaughtered in the United States or Canada for its products coming here - even though Hong Kong, under Chinese rule for nine years, is normally an FSIS-approved country from which the United States may directly import poultry.
“The scientific fact is, cooking eliminates the virus,” Richard Lobb, communications director for the National Chicken Council (NCC), said. “We don’t view it as a safety issue; USDA knows what it’s supposed to do to guarantee the safety of a particular product.”
FSIS Senior Press Officer Steven Cohen said FSIS reviewed China’s poultry processing laws and regulations and found them equivalent to provisions of the U.S. Poultry Products Inspection Act. The rule itself cites a review process that included inspection of Chinese facilities and a public comment period.
Chinese poultry products must comply with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and are subject to reinspection at American ports of entry.
Lobb said this is something for which the NCC pushed. The new rule also specifies products APHIS restricts from entering the United States because of animal disease in the country of origin “will be refused entry before reaching an FSIS import inspection facility.”
Processing facilities must be certified. The Chinese government is required to renew certification each year, and FSIS is to be responsible for on-site inspections to ensure, for example, that processed poultry destined for the United States is kept separate from domestically-slaughtered birds.
Chinese poultry is required to be labeled as such, though F. Ann Draughon, co-director of the University of Tennessee Food Safety Center of Excellence, said if it is imported and then mixed into prepared meals for sale such as soup or pot pies, those packages will not note that fact.
This farm news was published in the June 21, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.