Fourteen bipartisan members of the House of Representatives urged lawmakers Wednesday to block Chinese poultry from school lunches and other national nutrition programs because of the country’s poor food safety record.
In a letter, the 12 Democratic representatives and two Republicans called for language in the 2014 agriculture appropriations bill to ensure chicken processed in China is not included in the national school lunch program, the school breakfast program, the child and adult care food program and the summer food service program.
“Children are our most vulnerable population with respect to foodborne illnesses and sensitivity to potentially dangerous chemicals,” the letter said. “Given China’s demonstrably poor food safety record, we believe it is unacceptable to take unnecessary risks with the health of American school children.”
The Department of Agriculture approved the import of Chinese-processed poultry earlier this year on the condition the poultry was not hatched and raised in China.
That could soon change, with Chinese producers now working toward garnering approval to export Chinese poultry to the U.S.
On Monday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the USDA had told Congress it was taking steps to allow poultry raised and slaughtered in China to be sold in the U.S.
An eventual deal is being viewed as a quid pro quo to open the massive Chinese market for U.S. beef, which has been banned since 2003 over fears of mad cow disease.
China has been marred by numerous food scandals in recent times as the world’s second-largest economy has struggled to rein in corrupt business practices and ineffectual government enforcement.
On the subject, the letter Wednesday said:
“Consider the impact of China’s weak enforcement of food safety laws and regulations; more than 300,000 Chinese children fell seriously ill, with some dying, from melamine-tainted milk powder; dangerously high levels of mercury found in Chinese baby formula; the sale of more than $1 million worth of rat and other small mammal meat passed off to consumers as lamb; and more than 16,000 diseased pig carcasses dumped in a river to rot.
Last year China Central Television revealed that a Chinese poultry supplier provided Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants with chicken fattened by large quantities of illegal drugs. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that, since 2007, pet treats imported from China containing contaminated chicken have killed 600 dogs and cats in the United States, and sickened 3,600 more. According to the World Health organization, so far 45 of the 136 people who contracted the H7N9 bird flu in China this year have died.”
Signing the letter were Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.).
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