Food safety and public health advocates are speaking out against a new plan to process American and Canadian-raised poultry in China. In North America, we expect a certain level of rigour when it comes to monitoring our food’s journey from farm to table – and are quick to expose and penalize companies who fail to uphold government regulated standards.
But according to food policy activist, journalist, and coalition leader Nancy Huehnergarth, laws to protect public health from contaminated food are practically nonexistent in China. Along with two other concerned colleagues, Huenhnergarth has launched a petition at change.org against the processing of American-bound chicken in China. And on June 17th, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing on the same subject.
Here’s why they’re so concerned about keeping Chinese chicken out of North America:
Rampant Food Poisoning
Because there are few food safety certification measures in place – and corruption undermines even those – food poisoning is a common occurrence in China. There are countless Chinese blogs and newspaper articles on the subject, chronicling the latest cases of contaminated products and days spent suffering the agony of digestive disorders.
The problem is so chronic, Chinese citizens go to great lengths to grow their own vegetables, cultivating gardens on even the tiniest of apartment balconies. Often, they will spend up to 50 percent of their income on imported foods. Tragically, one of the most recent reports focused on the widespread problem of melamine-tainted milk powder, which sickened approximately 300,000 children – several of whom died from their illness.
Virtually No Safety Standards
One of the root sources of China’s contaminated food supply is the complete lack of food handling training. Due to extremely low wages, manufacturing and processing facilities are staffed by rural populations that are, for the most part, uneducated. Basic procedures like washing hands and sanitizing work areas are misunderstood and overlooked. The importance of minimum refrigeration temperatures and the safe disposal of waste are often completely ignored. Recently, when a herd of pigs became infected with disease, the animal carcasses were simply dumped in a nearby river to rot – all 16,000 of them.
Chinese Pet Treats Sicken, Kill Animals
Food safety experts are concerned about processing poultry in China – and then sending it back to North America for consumption – because of the country’s already-tainted track record when it comes to spoiled products. The FDA recently warned American pet owners to steer clear of animal jerky treats made in China. Since 2007, approximately 600 dogs and cats in the US have mysteriously died and 3, 600 have been sickened from Chinese-produced pet treats.
No FDA Monitoring at Chinese Chicken Plants
Graduates of food safety courses understand that sanitation regulations are useless if no one is there to enforce them. The processing centers in China that currently handle North American-bound chicken do not have any on-site FDA regulators. And what’s worse, consumers will never know if their poultry was processed in China because there is no mandate to enforce country of origin labeling. That means the Chinese chicken could be served to children in schools or sold at your favorite local fast food joint – and no one would be the wiser.
Do you think Canada should allow its home-raised meat to be processed by plants outside its own borders?