Western View: Packed in China?

Taylor Hillman Features, General, Western View

chickenLen Wilcox tells us why food safety advocates are mortified at the thought.

Western View- Packed in China

Last year, the US Department of Agriculture opened the door to allow chicken grown here in the states, to be processed in China. It’s a disturbing move, one that is just a small step away from allowing chickens grown, harvested and processed in China to be sold here. Not only is this a threat to poultry farmers in the U.S., this is a threat to America’s food quality. With China’s terrible record in food safety, many consumers believe this is a dangerous move and want the government to shut that door.

Food safety advocate Bettina Seigal is an attorney and journalist whose blog, The Lunch Tray, focuses on food quality issues, especially in schools. She has kept the spotlight on the chicken processing issue. In an article published in the Huffington Post, she pointed out that China’s dismal record includes a wide-spread case of melamine-tainted milk powder that sickened 300,000 children, and more than 1 million dollars worth of rat and other mystery meats sold as lamb. And earlier this year, a television station in China broadcast video of workers in a processing plant scooping up meat that had fallen to the ground, and putting it back on conveyer belts for processing.

With all these scandals, and given the cost of transporting chicken to China and back, it may seem unlikely that any American companies would do this. But it’s not only possible, it’s likely; the difference in labor cost is huge. Plus, there is no requirement to label foreign-processed food as the country of origin is the U.S. So you would never know if that chicken you’re buying in the supermarket was grown in California but processed and packed in Shanghai.

And you may never know how it was handled. There won’t be any US meat inspectors in those factories, either.

It behooves us in agriculture to support Ms. Seigal’s efforts, not only to protect the poultry industry, but to protect the quality of American food.