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USDA backs China poultry for US

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USDA backs China poultry for US



USDA supports accepting Chinese poultry

It's an odd idea, says a consumer advocate, considering China's bird flu
problems.

By PHILIP BRASHER

DES MOINES REGISTER WASHINGTON BUREAU

November 30, 2005



Washington, D.C. — Chinese chicken, anyone? It might not sound appealing to
many diners, given that China is struggling to contain outbreaks of bird
flu.



However, the U.S. Agriculture Department is proposing that China be allowed
to export some processed poultry to the United States.



The chickens themselves could not be produced or slaughtered in China. The
birds would have to be grown and slaughtered in America or in one of the few
other countries that are allowed to ship their domestic chicken to the
United States.



The Chinese products would have to be cooked and shelf-stable, such as
canned goods. Cooking kills viruses, including those that cause avian flu,
experts say.



Any processing plants in China allowed to export products to the United
States also would have to be inspected to ensure they meet the same
food-safety standards that U.S. facilities do.



The timing of the proposal "is very odd," said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the
Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group. It
would open the border to poultry processed in China "at a time when a lot is
not known about avian influenza in China and China is known to have it."



China has reported 29 outbreaks of avian flu this year.



While humans can get the virus from close contact with birds, health
officials' biggest fear is that the virus will mutate into a form passed
easily from person to person.



It isn't clear when the Chinese exports would start. The Agriculture
Department will field public comments on the proposal before moving forward.



The Agriculture Department estimates that less than 2.5 million pounds would
be sent to the United States. That is the equivalent of 714,000 chickens, a
fraction of the more than 9 billion produced yearly in the United States,
according to the National Chicken Council.



Agriculture Department officials said the Chinese competition could force
U.S. companies to specialize in products they can produce at lower cost.



Allowing the Chinese products is the price of liberalizing trade, said
Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council.



"Free trade benefits our country," he said. "If this comes as a corollary to
it, we just have to deal with it."





desmoinesregister.com
 

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