In late August 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) made it possible for the United States to export chicken to China for processing. Under these present regulations, chicken originating from U.S. farms can be slaughtered in the United States, shipped to China for processing, and then shipped back to the United States for sale. This chicken need not include Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) to indicate that it has been processed in China. This practice was technically authorized several years ago, but was specifically denied funding by affirmative use of a three-year congressional ban by means of congressional appropriations bills. Since China’s original application for approval, a total of ten years has passed in the course of lengthy inspections, the congressional ban, and yet more inspections. Time was also required to write and issue official reports. In 2013, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an arm of the USDA, completed remedial audits of China’s poultry processing system. The FSIS again certified the administrative side of the Chinese poultry processing system in addition to issuing permits to four select processing plants, thereby deeming them equivalent to U.S. standards. Perhaps inevitably, this was not a popular change. Some American politicians and consumer groups have retained reservations about the safety of chicken processed in China due to a variety of newer and older reasons relating back to the congressional ban. As it stands, opponents point to perceived food-safety concerns and consumer-information issues based on the fact that consumers will not know in which country their chicken products have been processed. This Note introduces the relevant background information and the history of Chinese processed poultry standards, the concept of equivalence, and a brief history of U.S. assessment of Chinese poultry processing, concluding with a description of the health safety scares in China in the context of this issue. This Note then analyzes these trends and argues for the adoption of modified COOL standards for some processed foods in light of strategic uses of COOL.
Country of Origin Labeling Revisited: Processed Chicken from China and the USDA Processed Foods Exception.
Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.
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