Chinese Chicken: Why I’m Starting Another Food Petition, And How You Can Help

As many of you know, in March, 2012 I launched on The Lunch Tray a petition seeking to remove lean, finely textured beef (“LFTB,” more widely known as “pink slime”) from the ground beef procured by the USDA for the National School Lunch Program.  The petition garnered over a quarter of a million signatures in just a few days and ultimately led the USDA to change its policy, allowing school districts for the first time to opt out of receiving beef containing LFTB.  

Though I’ve since been asked by activists and concerned readers to start petitions on other food-related issues, I didn’t want to exhaust your goodwill by urging you take action on one issue after another, no matter how important each individual cause might be.  But in the past few months I’ve been learning about a particular food safety issue and believe that an online petition is urgently needed to address it.  Today I’m launching that petition on, along with two respected food activists, Nancy Huehnergarth and Barbara Kowalcyk.

Here’s the background.

chicken raw copyright

In late August, the USDA announced that it will allow four Chinese facilities to process poultry raised and slaughtered in the United States, Chile or Canada, and then export the cooked poultry products back into the United States.  The USDA’s move is considered to be a preliminary step toward eventually allowing China to export its own raw poultry into this country, in exchange for China’s opening up its lucrative beef market to American beef producers.

A few weeks later, I posted here an exclusive report in which I determined that USDA had significantly misled parents regarding the possible inclusion of Chinese-processed chicken in school meals.  In response to my reporting, USDA eventually corrected its website to admit (in a rather convoluted fashion) that such chicken could in fact appear on school lunch trays and in other federal child nutrition programs.

Since that time, I’ve been honored to work with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and a coalition of other legislators, food safety experts and food activists regarding both Chinese-processed chicken in school meals and the prospect of Chinese-raised and -slaughtered chickens eventually reaching our supermarkets and schools.

Here’s why we’re so concerned.  China has an unusually troubling record when it comes to food safety, as reported on by numerous media outlets:

  • Last year, according to news reports, a Chinese poultry supplier provided Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in China with chicken fattened by large quantities of illegal drugs.

Yet, despite these concerns:

  • Chinese facilities which process chicken for consumption in the U.S. will not have on-site USDA inspectors to ensure food safety.
  • Chinese-processed chicken will not have to bear “Country Of Origin Labeling,” which means that consumers will not know if they are purchasing or eating chicken processed in China.
  • Chinese-processed chicken, as my reporting showed, can be used in school meals and other federal child nutrition programs, despite the fact that children are particularly vulnerable to foodborne illnesses and dangerous chemicals.

Even more alarming is USDA’s plan to eventually allow chicken raised and slaughtered in China to be imported directly into the United States, despite the fact that:

  • December 2013 USDA audit found that China’s poultry slaughter system is not yet equivalent to that of the United States in terms of food safety practices.
  • The New York Times reported earlier this month that toxic soil and water pollution in some areas of China is causing growing concern over the safety of food produced in that country.
  • Bloomberg News reported that at a press conference last summer, one of China’s own food safety officials essentially admitted that his country can’t meet the food safety standards of more developed nations.

Last month, Representative DeLauro led a bipartisan group of fourteen federal lawmakers to submit a letter on these issues to the Agricultural Appropriations Committee, and Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have also sounded the alarm on Chinese chicken.

chickenwidgetIn support of these lawmakers’ efforts and to express our own dismay — as mothers, consumers and food activists — regarding these developments, Nancy, Barbara and I have launched a petition asking Congress, President Obama and his administration to to keep Chinese-processed chicken out of school meals and other child nutrition programs, and to prevent the importation of Chinese-raised and -slaughtered poultry.  (Barbara also appeared on the Dr. Oz show last month, along with Food Politics’ Marion Nestle, to discuss Chinese chicken – watch the segment here.)

I hope you’ll take a moment to sign this petition and then use Facebook, Twitter (hashtag: #chinesechicken) and email to share it with friends and family.

As I learned from my 2012 petition, our governmental officials do listen when we join our voices together.  Please lend your signature to this important effort to ensure the safety of our food. Thank you!

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  1. Hanna Saltzman says

    So glad you, Nancy, and Barbara are launching this important petition! As I just commented when signing the petition: this practice endangers our children’s health, creates a massive carbon footprint, and undermines progress re healthy school lunches. And this is precisely the type of issue that thousands of citizens can — and WILL! — change. I’ll share this with the #MomsNotLovinIt network soon.

    • Amber Egan says

      Keep up this good fight! It is absolutely crazy that we would ship chicken half way around the world then ship it back for consumption. Someone has got to be the voice against crazy!

  2. Nickole Benson says

    We notice the rise in autoimmune diseases and allergies today and I believe if our government officials would clean or water and airfood supply; we would see a huge improvement in the health and happiness of our citizens.

  3. Maria Francia says

    I’m an American currently living in Mexico. Yes, by choice. After having read many countless and informative reports from the Food Babe, this by far is the most perfect example of how the upper echelon has once again disregarded the masses. With so many dangers that already lurk in the food source, yet another is added. Absolutely disappointing for a supposed first world country.

    What happened to “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” Abraham Lincoln must be rolling around in the grave at the disaster our government has become.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      A big welcome to all who’ve learned about this issue from Vani Hari of Food Babe today! Thank you for your interest and comments, and don’t forget to actually sign the petition and share it with friends. Your help will really make a difference! THANK YOU! :-)

  4. Stephen says

    My wife is from China, she says our meat is not fresh. When she cooked chicken in China it made the house smell good. Here the chicken she says has a foul ( no pun intended ) order when it’s cooked. When I was in China I saw a few things which would make one question the food inspections, however they are very big on being fresh. Dinner typically would pick out a fish from the aquarium and cook it minutes later. Now when it came to what they would refer to as western food….look out. A lb. of bacon uncooked was served as such. I suspect the cook did not know what to do with it. One other note my wife refuses to eat out at restaurants here in America, as she does not know what the people put in, on or did to the food. So…there it is.

    • Lila says

      We are talking about proven to be infected and bad practices of food safety and handling in China! Not picking out and eating fresh fish!

  5. Pat says

    I have a better Idea. How about every person educate themselves about the Animal Food Industry and watch movies like Food Inc., and Earthlings, so the general public can be educated as to how toxic animal products are, how terrible they are treated before their throats are slashed, beaks cut off, testicles removed without anesthesia, etc. People don’t realize they do not need to eat dead animals. We are herbivores/frugivores . If everyone watched those movies, including letting their kids watch, no one would ever eat meat again. People are so disconnected to the planet, that kids don’t even know they are eating dead animals!

    • Rhonda says

      I could not agree with you more, Pat… After watching Food Inc. last summer I made the decision to become a vegetarian.I am so glad that I did and I feel much healthier by leaving meat out of my diet. I wish more people would take time to watch documentaries like Food Inc. and Earthlings and wake up and realize what horrific and unsanitary practices are going on in beef, pork and poultry processing facilities here in the United States.
      I cannot even imagine why the US government would even think to allow China to export their chicken in to our country!!! This is also very disturbing news to read!!!!!!

  6. Eve Marcant says

    Chickened Out!
    It seems flus that have been
    detected in the US originsted in China .
    Bird and Swine flus.

    Whst’s next?

  7. Laurie says

    Why would any of our foods come from China when our farmers are struggling. The regulations here protect our foods. This is infuriating

  8. Dawn says

    Please tell me how we can be sure that we’re not consuming Chinese anything??? The thought of eating meat these days disgusts me!

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Dawn: Right now no Chinese facilities are processing chicken for consumption in the US, but they can start doing so and when that happens, we won’t know because the processed products (like nuggets and soup) won’t need to be labeled as having been processed in China. That’s why we hope you sign our petition! Also, when/if USDA does allow China to ship its own slaughtered poultry here, that chicken WILL be labeled as coming from China so concerned consumers will be able to avoid it. Hope this info is helpful.

  9. Dean Collins says

    lol at how xenophobic the comments on this article are…..I guess its only ok that we import their TV’s and Walmart plastics…..and not their food.


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