Some Promising Developments re: Chinese-Processed Chicken

by Bettina Elias Siegel on June 19, 2014

As many of you know, in January of this year I, along with Nancy Huehnergarth and Barbara Kowalcyk, launched a Change.org petition seeking to keep Chinese-processed chicken out of school meals and to prevent China from eventually shipping to the United States its own raw, slaughtered poultry.

I became involved in this campaign last August, after stumbling upon a serious misrepresentation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture about this issue.  After approving four plants in China for the processing of U.S.-raised chickens, the USDA’s website reassured parents that such chicken would not appear in school meals.  But after my own investigation, taken at the behest of two Lunch Tray readers, it became clear that such chicken could easily be fed to our school children.  (As a result of my post, USDA retracted its statement and modified its website.)  In the process, I learned a great deal about the alarming food safety lapses in China, as well as the ways in which the terrible degradation of its environment could affect food grown and raised in that country, and I became motivated to take action.

Since the launch of the petition, over 323,000 people have joined our cause.  (To put this in perspective, my 2012 Change.org petition regarding the use of lean, finely textured beef, aka “pink slime,” in school meals, also directed at USDA, succeeded after receiving around 200,000 signatures.)

Even more importantly, action is now being taken in Congress to protect school kids, consumers and pets against the potential hazards of Chinese-processed chicken.

Late last month, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), a longtime food safety advocate and opponent of Chinese poultry imports, was able to get an amendment into the House appropriations bill, with no Republican opposition, banning the use Chinese-processed chicken in school meals.  Indeed, Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL), chairman of the House agricultural appropriations subcommittee, was quoted as saying at the time:

“This is something we all agree on, and, just to prove to you that I am not one to hurt our school kids, I accept it.  I have the best intentions for our kids to eat healthy.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), is sounding the alarm about Chinese poultry in the Senate.  Focusing primarily on the disturbing number of pet deaths and illnesses (including illnesses in three humans) from the consumption of Chinese pet treats, Brown is urging the Obama Administration to investigate Chinese food processing standards and plans to introduce an amendment  the 2015 agriculture appropriations bill to “ensure Congress is given greater information on the Administration’s efforts to investigate the safety of China’s processing facilities.”  You can read more about Brown’s efforts here.

In addition, Brown, along with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), held a Congressional hearing earlier this week to further express their concern about the safety of processed chicken and pet treats imported from China.  My co-petitioner Nancy Huehnergarth attended the hearing and has an excellent recap of the issues discussed

Nancy has also been engaged for several weeks in a fascinating email exchange with a woman she calls “Susan,” an American ex-pat who has lived in China for the past fifteen years.  Susan has been describing what day-to-day life is like in China from a food safety perspective, and this week Nancy shared her stomach-churning account in a post on The Hill blog (“Chinese Food Safety Is Worse Than You Think.”)

All of these developments are encouraging and your voices have helped to bring them about.  So if you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to sign and share our petition.  Thank you!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Huber June 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Thank you for publishing this very important information and Thank heavens for people like you guys who are determined to protect people in this country when the USDA (ironically named the UNITED STATES Department of Agriculture) appears to be representing China, not the citizens who pay for their “protection and diligence.”
I have a sneaky suspicion that money is exchanging hands somewhere behind the scenes, and corruption is rampant when our own USDA officials care more for the Chinese factories and big-business chicken farmers than they care for those who live in the United States!

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Sally Kuzemchak June 20, 2014 at 11:26 am

This is wonderful news. HUGE kudos to you three for taking on this issue and making lawmakers aware of the danger. I’m so proud of our Ohio senator Sherrod Brown for his attention to this matter and I look forward to hearing how this all progresses. Keep up the great work and thanks for helping to protect our kids!

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