30 January 2006



By Libby Quaid
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Agriculture Department is seeking to allow shipments of poultry processed in China, where thousands of birds and several people have died from bird flu.
Critics are urging the department to drop the proposal, and the U.S. industry is raising concerns about how it would affect consumers' perception of chicken safety. The United States does not accept poultry imports from countries where the virulent bird flu strain is present.
Under the department's proposal, the United States still would not accept Chinese chickens. China would have to process poultry slaughtered in the United States or other countries from which this country accepts poultry.
Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa said yesterday that the United States could not afford to take chances. He acknowledged there were safeguards in the plan but said the department had a poor record on inspections.
"We know that USDA's foreign food inspections have had problems in the past, and with so many unanswered questions, it is not wise to allow processed poultry imports from China at this time," said Harkin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"I am concerned the administration is neglecting the substantial public-health and economic risks to the United States, which USDA itself acknowledges but fails to address," he said.
The industry did not ask for the proposal, National Chicken Council spokesman Richard Lobb said. Chicken companies recently launched tests of every flock in the nation to reassure people that chicken was safe to eat.
"The timing is a mystery to us," Lobb said. "We did not seek this rule. We're not objecting to it, but we didn't support it, either."

Mabye someone in China got the idea that the bad press worldwide was hurting thier AG economy, so they would 'extort' (er....apply) a little pressure in the US Economy or quit buying our debt? Just a thought.

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