Four Chinese poultry processors have been approved to export a limited amount of meat to the United States, the US Department of Agriculture has announced.
Initially, only cooked poultry products from birds raised in the United States and Canada, will be eligible for exporting. It is thought however, that the government would eventually expand the rules, so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the American market.
Experts suggest that this could be the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the US. The decision follows years of wrangling over the issue, as American consumers are increasingly focused on the origin of their food and the weaknesses in China’s food safety record have repeatedly been exposed.
The poultry trade between the United States and China has been contentious for years, the New York Times writes. Under the Bush administration, the USDA moved to allow imports of chicken from China, which has banned imports of American beef since 2003 over worries about mad cow disease.
In response, Congress blocked Chinese chicken exports. China retaliated by placing huge tariffs on American chicken. The World Trade Organization then ruled that the tariffs were too high. After that, the USDA then audited Chinese processing plants, giving its approval for them to process raw birds from the United States and Canada.
Under the new rules, the Chinese facilities will verify that cooked products exported to the United States came from American or Canadian birds. So no USDA inspector will be present in the plants and as the poultry will be processed, it will not require country-of-origin labeling.