USDA allows chicken to be processed in China

7:12 PM, Feb 26, 2014   |    comments
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PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Each year, one in six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food. Now, there are concerns that number could increase given a major change in a little known federal regulation. After a ten-year approval process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will now allow chicken processed in China to be sold here in America.

"Because the labor in China is so much less expensive than the labor here that it actually does make some sick economic sense to ship our food all the way across the world and back to us again," Dorsey Barger, an organic chicken farmer opposed to the rule change, said.

The chicken cannot be raised or slaughtered in China. It would have to come from the U.S., Canada or Chile. The processed chicken also has to be cooked fully before it's shipped, and is subject to increased inspection upon re-entry into the U.S.

But food safety advocates like Bettina Siegel, the force behind getting pink slime removed from school lunches, says consumers and parents have much cause to be concerned given China's abysmal food safety record.

"A million dollars worth of lamb was sold to Chinese consumers that turned out to be the meat from rats and foxes," Siegel said. As one example, "this is a system that's so weak it can't even catch these egregious problems."

Only four Chinese facilities have been approved for processing chicken for export to the US. The U.S. already allows for shrimp to be processed in China like this. So far no US manufacturer has begun processing chicken in China - the USDA is still finalizing paperwork. But it is expected to happen any day.

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