A planned inspection of China’s poultry processing plants by US agricultural officials could be a step towards lifting the ban on Chinese chicken imports to the US for human consumption.
The inspections, scheduled for late January or early February, are the result of seven years of negotiations between the two nations. The reasons cited for the prolonged ban have been past food safety concerns, bird flu outbreaks and the frequent turnover of Chinese officials involved in the negotiations.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), its inspectors will try to verify Chinese claims that several of its chicken-processing- and-slaughter plants meet US food safety standards.
China is interested in exporting the meat from both US birds which have been processed in China and those produced and processed in China. US officials will first consider approval for the import of chicken from US-raised birds that are processed overseas, and then turn to chicken produced and processed in China, USDA officials said. It will be at least a year before the USDA would be able to clear China to export domestically raised chicken, one USDA official said.
The US ban on Chinese chicken has long been an issue in US-China trade relations, according to Iowa State University professor Dermot Hayes. Resolving that issue will help to get China to soften its barriers on US agricultural goods, Hayes added.
Currently China is only authorised to import chicken for pet food. However, since 2007 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating a possible link between Chinese jerky treats and reports of dog illnesses and deaths.