Food & Water Watch recently submitted a citizen petition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to remove China from the list of eligible processed-poultry exporters to the United States. Using a Freedom of Information Act request, the consumer watchdog claims to have found “serious mistakes” in the USDA approval process that allows the imported chicken.

The watchdog asserts that (i) “[i]n its haste to get a final rule announced in time for a visit to the United States by the Chinese President in 2006, USDA missed required steps in the approval process and failed to send the rule to the USDA Office of Civil Rights for review”; (ii) “USDA staff made incorrect public statements that consumers would be able to avoid Chinese poultry imports, despite the fact that country of origin labeling requirements would not apply to processed poultry products”; (iii) “[p]ressure on the USDA to approve the rule was based in part on U.S. efforts to reopen the U.S. beef trade with China, which was banned after mad cow disease was discovered in a cow in Washington State in 2003”; and (iv) “FSIS provided different sets of data for the potential economic impact of processed poultry imports from China on the domestic poultry industry.”

“In the long[-]running saga of whether or not the U.S. should allow poultry processed in China to enter the United States, we now have evidence of instances where the USDA broke its own rules,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a statement. “The USDA’s first responsibility is to protect U.S. consumers from unnecessary safety risks—not rush through the process to help trade negotiators open the Chinese market to U.S. beef.” See Food & Water Watch Press Release, January 19, 2011.