WASHINGTON – The Department of Agriculture on Friday approved four Chinese poultry processors to begin shipping a limited amount of meat to the United States, a move that is likely to add to the debate over food imports.
Initially, the companies will be allowed to export only cooked poultry products from birds raised in the United States and Canada. But critics predicted that the government eventually would expand the rules so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the U.S. market.
"This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the U.S.," said Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that works to promote food safety.
The USDA's decision follows years of wrangling over the issue and comes as Americans are increasingly focused on the origin of their food.
In recent years, imports have been the source of contamination, prompting broader worries about food safety. The Food and Drug Administration just released an analysis of imported spices, showing high levels of salmonella in coriander, oregano, sesame seeds and curry powder.
China does not have the best track record for food safety, and its chicken products in particular have raised questions.
Recently, an FDA investigation tied the deaths of more than 500 dogs and a handful of cats to chicken jerky treats that came from China. The treats also were blamed for sickening more than 2,500 other animals.
NEW YORK TIMES