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(CBSNewYork) WASHINGTON – NY Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer blasted the Obama administration Sunday for taking steps toward allowing Chinese chicken to be exported to the United States, despite China’s [poor] food safety record.
As WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported Sunday, Schumer said first, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) only allowed chickens that had been processed in China to be sold in the U.S. Now, he said the USDA plans to green-light poultry raised and slaughtered in China.
A USDA report to Congress revealed that the Department is considering granting the Chinese slaughter system “equivalence” to the U.S. food safety standards, which would allow chickens raised and processed in China to be sold in the U.S.
Other steps are required before China’s system would be deemed equivalent. But Schumer said that the report caused “major concern” that USDA is moving in that direction.
“It is shocking that given China’s poor track record with regard to food-safety, the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] is taking moving towards allowing China to raise, slaughter and process chicken to be eaten in the U.S.,” said Schumer.
He called on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reconsider the effort.
The move by the USDA, which was revealed secretly to Congress, would undermine the agency’s mission of “guaranteeing American consumers a safe food supply,” he said.
Schumer first raised the alarm about Chinese chicken in September, when the USDA proposed allowing American-raised chicken to be shipped to China for processing and then exported back to the U.S.
China has been the location for a…list of food scandals…
“The United States Department of Agriculture is taking steps away from guaranteeing American consumers a safe food supply,” Schumer said Sunday, citing China’s poor food safety track record. “China has a terrible record on health safety, and chickens are one of the things that need the most care and inspections,” he said.
“(This) has nothing to do with health or safety, but it has to do with diplomacy,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
The USDA denied Schumer’s allegations. “Poultry slaughtered in China is not allowed to be imported to the United States” at this time, the agency said.
Schumer called the plan a huge change in policy, and a big mistake. A step closer to final approval, Schumer said the USDA report to Congress indicated aspects of the Chinese slaughter system to be equivalent to that of the U.S.
“Why is the USDA doing it?” he said. “We just don’t know.”
In response to Schumer’s comments, the USDA said it is legally obligated to review requests from countries waiting to export, but it has not finalized its audit of China.
As to whether the Chinese poultry slaughter system is equivalent to that of the U.S., the USDA said categorically that it is not.
“USDA has not found China’s poultry slaughter system to be equivalent and therefore poultry slaughtered in China is not allowed to be imported to the United States,” the agency said in a statement. “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service is dedicated to maintaining that status.”
Compiled from articles published on Nov. 11 at CBS News, NY Post and NY Daily News. Reprinted here for educational purposes only.
1. What is the role of the USDA?
2. What is the USDA considering granting to China, according to a USDA report given to Congress?
3. How will this change the current USDA position on China and chicken?
4. Why is this possible change of policy by the Obama administration of such great concern to Senator Schumer? Be specific.
5. What was the USDA’s response to Sen. Schumer’s public criticism?
6. What do you think? Who is telling the truth? The USDA or Sen. Schumer? Is Sen. Schumer needlessly fear-mongering? Would the USDA really allow chicken to be raised in U.S., shipped to then processed in China and shipped to the U.S. for sale? or to be raised, slaughtered and processes in China and then sold in the U.S.?
7. Is there any case where you think it is OK to send meat to China for processing, then shipped back to the U.S. for sale? What are the positives and negatives of this plan? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Explain your answers.
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The United States Department of Agriculture
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food.
- It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and abroad.
- The head of the department is the Secretary of Agriculture, who is a member of the Cabinet.
- The current Secretary is Tom Vilsack.
- The USDA has 105,778 employees.
- The annual budget is approximately $132.3 billion. (from wikipedia)
Visit the USDA website at: usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome.
Watch Sen. Schumer’s announcement: