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Inspection of Chinese poultry-processing plants may signal opening for imported poultry for human consumption


FDA continues to investigate pet illnesses associated with Chinese chicken products.

The export of poultry from China to the United States is currently prohibited--past food safety concerns, bird flu outbreaks, and even the frequent turnover of Chinese officials are all cited as reasons for the continued ban. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) spokesman, “FSIS is currently working with the Chinese government to develop a timeline to inspect poultry-processing plants in that country.” Some reports indicate that those inspections could be conducted in late January or early February in an apparent step toward lifting the U.S. ban on Chinese poultry.

Although banned from the U.S. poultry market for people, China does export chicken for pet food. But these products have been problematic in recent years. Since 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted extensive testing on chicken jerky treats of Chinese origin. As of Dec. 17, 2012, the FDA has received 2,674 reports involving 3,243 dogs, including 501 deaths, and nine cats, including one death.

Much to the dismay of affected pet owners, the FDA has yet to indentify a contaminant or cause for illnesses associated with chicken imported from China and therefore will not enact a recall. It has issued a warning to pet owners of the possible dangers of feeding pets products such as Nestle’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats and Del Monte’s Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats. Presently, Milo’s Kitchen’s Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers treats are voluntarily recalled due to the unrelated discovery of trace amounts of prohibited antibiotics on these products.

Politically, the planned inspections could relax tense trade relations between the United States and China, which have been embattled in negotiations for the past seven years. China is anxious to export poultry, and the United States is interested in reversing China’s 2003 ban on American beef. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, representing U.S. ranchers and beef producers, estimated last year that the U.S. could be exporting $200 million of beef to China per year if the ban was lifted.

However, it seems one ban won’t be lifted unless the other is as well.

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