The Politics of Poultry
By David Fenley, NCFPD Research Assistant
Here at NCFPD we aim to anticipate food system disruptions before they become just that, disruptions. While markets around the world react to the Chinese H7N9 bird flu scare and poultry is slaughtered by the tens of thousands in an attempt to contain its further spread, the U.S. might not have too much cause for concern. The flu virus is not easily spread from person-to-person and the U.S. does not currently import Chinese poultry for human consumption. Pet food, on the other hand, is imported and has a history of harming our furry friends.
In the past decade, U.S. trade relations with China have improved immensely, but there are still many points of contention, poultry being one of them. The H7N9 scare might impede an already touchy process of approving Chinese poultry processing plants. China has been seeking to export poultry products to the U.S. for quite some time, but has yet to gain approval from the USDA.
In 2006, citing the strong trade relationship between the two countries, China appealed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to pressure the U.S. to lift its ban on Chinese poultry. The Chinese were successful and Congress approved the USDA’s rule allowing China to export poultry to the U.S. However, funding for the rule was not appropriated, thereby prohibiting the legal import of poultry from China for human consumption. Only recently have the two countries made strides to lift the ban.
The USDA has been to Chinese plants recently and found some food safety concerns that need addressing. There has been a delayed response from China in addressing the issues raised, while previously China had an urgent desire to export poultry products to the US. Past bird flu outbreaks and potentially adulterated chicken treats for pets further complicate this matter. Given the current H7N9 scare it may be some time before the China/U.S. poultry predicament is squared away. At NCFPD our goal is to protect the U.S. food supply, so until the politics of poultry are worked out we will continue to watch these issues.
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