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Frequently Asked Questions - Equivalence of China’s Poultry Processing System

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced that China is eligible to export processed, cooked chicken to the United States.

  • The United States is not importing any raw chicken from China.
  • FSIS has determined that China’s poultry processing inspection system is equivalent to that of the United States, and cooked chicken imported from China would be processed under equivalent conditions as in the United States.

As always, FSIS is fully committed to protecting the nation’s food supply and if China begins exporting processed chicken products to the United States, all food safety steps will be taken as if the products were processed in the United States. 

How does FSIS determine if a country is eligible to export product to the United States?

As a regulatory agency, FSIS has a legal obligation, as dictated by Congress, to audit any foreign country interested in exporting meat, poultry, or processed egg product to the United States. FSIS maintains a robust, three-part system for both establishing equivalence and ensuring countries continue to meet equivalent standards to those of the United States.

  • Once a country is granted equivalence, FSIS will conduct periodic verification reviews and audits of exporting establishments.
  • Product undergoes re-inspection at U.S. ports-of-entry to check for proper certification, labeling, transportation damage and general condition.
  • Selected shipments will be subject to additional re-inspection procedures, including examinations for product defects and laboratory analyses to detect harmful chemical residues or pathogen testing appropriate for the products. FSIS performs increased import re-inspection activities for countries that are beginning to export product to the Unites States.

Why is the United States reviewing China’s poultry processing system?

This review is part of an ongoing process that began in 2004.

  • In 2004, China requested that FSIS conduct on-site audits with the goal of exporting poultry to the United States. The United States began two audits, one for poultry processing and one for poultry slaughter.
  • In 2006, the United States released the results of the audits. FSIS determined that China’s system for processed poultry was equivalent to that of the U.S. system, but denied China’s eligibility to export slaughtered poultry. The United States began rulemaking and published a final rule in the Federal Register deeming China’s processed poultry system equivalent.  FSIS added China to the list of countries eligible to export processed poultry to the United States.
  • In 2006, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees banned the use of funds to import processed poultry product from China. As a result, China was unable to export any processed poultry product to the United States.
  • In 2009, Congress lifted the ban on processed poultry products provided the Department met the following conditions: 
    • audits of inspection systems;
    • on-site reviews of slaughter and processing facilities, laboratories and other control operations; and
    • annual audits and reviews after China is deemed equivalent.
  • In December 2010, China requested that FSIS audit their poultry processing systems again.
  • In March 2013, FSIS conducted an audit of China’s poultry processing system.
  • On June 28, 2013, the audit report was sent to China and the country was given 60 days to provide comments.
  • After the 60-day period, on August 30, 2013, FSIS released the report to the public formally announcing that China’s food safety inspection system for processed poultry meets the United States standard for equivalency.
  • This means that China is now approved to export processed chicken to the United States on the following conditions:
    • The processed chicken product must be fully cooked prior to export; and
    • No chickens raised or slaughtered in China are eligible for export to the United States, even if they are processed.

How do I know that China will keep up with food safety standards?

FSIS continues to monitor China’s poultry processing system. The following measures are taken to ensure China maintains equivalence to the U.S. system:

  • China must use a specific and standardized method to provide the United States with detailed information on all aspects of their food safety systems.
  • Chicken products processed in China are subject to increased inspection upon entry into the United States.
  • FSIS will audit China’s poultry processing system annually.
  • If FSIS finds China to be exporting product that does not meet our food safety standards, China will no longer be eligible for export.

How can I be sure the processed poultry from China originated in the United States or Canada?

As a part of evaluating China’s ongoing equivalence, FSIS inspectors verify this documentation at import inspection facilities and during audits.

FSIS has determined that the China’s poultry processing inspection system is equivalent to that of the United States. Consumers should know that any processed poultry from China will be produced under equivalent food safety standards and conditions as U.S. processed poultry. Furthermore, FSIS performs increased inspection activities for countries that are just beginning to export to the United States.

How can I be sure the processed chicken product has been fully cooked?

FSIS makes sure that a veterinary certification accompanies each shipment confirming that the chicken was cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165.2°F.

Will chicken processed in China be included in school lunches?

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service purchases approximately 20 percent of food for the National School Lunch Program on behalf of schools. The product purchased by AMS must be of 100 percent domestic origin, meaning that they are produced and processed from products which were produced, raised, and processed only in the United States.

Schools also make independent purchases on the commercial market to meet the needs of their students. These purchases are governed by section 12(n) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1760), which requires participating schools to purchase domestically grown and processed foods, to the maximum extent practicable.

A domestic commodity/product is defined as “an agricultural commodity that is produced in the United States and a food product that is processed in the United States substantially using agricultural commodities that are produced in the United States.”  Schools can consider a product domestic if it is processed in the United States and comprised of at least 51 percent domestic ingredients  Schools have the option of using only products that are 100 percent domestically grown and processed.

 

Last Modified Sep 26, 2013