December 15, 2011
As soon as Chinese health authorities resolve all "outstanding issues", the USDA plans to issue a proposed rule in allowing China to ship to the US poultry slaughtered in its territory, according to Food & Water Watch consumer group.
It is not clear from the letter how close Chinese authorities are to resolving these issues - or even what the issues are. Also unclear is whether the rule would apply only to processed poultry, or would cover exports of fresh and frozen meat. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection service (FSIS) did not respond to an inquiry before press time (December 13).
"Following the resolution of all outstanding issues for poultry slaughter, FSIS would begin drafting a proposed rule to add China to the list of countries eligible to slaughter its own poultry for export to the US," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the December 5 letter, which was sent to Food & Water Watch chief lobbyist Tony Corbo.
The letter came in response to urging from Food & Water Watch that USDA proceed cautiously in allowing Chinese facilities to ship to the US processed poultry that has been slaughtered in either the US or Canada. A rule that would allow this kind of trade has been in effect since 2006, but no Chinese facility has yet made a shipment because of problems proving enforcement of health standards "equivalent" with those in the US.
China's health authority has met the "principal requirements" to show it can uphold sanitation standards equivalent with the US, but certain guidelines still remain unclear, according to an FSIS audit conducted in December 2010, the results of which were made public on October 6.
FSIS requested that China submit further clarification before moving forward. In his letter, Vilsack said China would be eligible to export processed poultry to the US following China's certification to FSIS of "approved processing establishments."
The US meat industry has hoped that, once this happens, China will consider opening its own market to American producers. At the recent Joint Committee on Commerce and Trade meetings in Chengdu, however, US officials appeared to make little progress toward new market access for US beef.