MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The Lee family sits at home eating their chicken nuggets but does “mom” like the idea that as soon as next summer “nuggets” could be made with chicken processed in China?
“Uh it makes me a little nervous,” said Katrina Lee.
China has a long history of serving up unsafe food from industrial chemical Melanime which was put in infant formula to contaminated “rat” meat passed off as lamb.
“People have a right to be really suspicious of it,” said New York University Public Health Specialist Marion Nestle.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently tied the deaths of nearly 600 dogs and cats to chicken jerky treats from China.
“As far as I’m concerned this is the dog in the coal mine,” said Tony Corbo from Food and Water Watch.
Despite consumer concern, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cleared the way for Chinese poultry processors to ship meat to America.
For now, they “can’t” use Chinese birds, only poultry raised and slaughtered in approved countries like the U.S. and it has to come back “fully” cooked.
“If it’s cooked, it should be perfectly safe,” said Bill Mattos from the California Poultry Federation.
Even with cheaper Chinese labor, how does it make economic sense to ship raw poultry nearly six thousand miles all the way to China and back just in order to cook it?
Some believe it’s about hatching a much bigger deal.
The plan puts an end to a long trade war with China over poultry and in return, the move creates good will.
The hope is it will open a lot more doors for American grown food to be sold in China.
“This is really a big deal for trade. If China likes what we’re doing they’ll buy more products and China has a lot more people,” said Mattos.
As for chicken processed in China, American poultry producers believe the amount will be miniscule but critics warn it could end up as an ingredient in pot pies, chicken noodle soup and even nuggets and you won’t know it. “China” won’t be on the label, thanks to a loophole in the law.
Last year, China sent more than 4 billion pounds of food to the U.S. including half the apple juice we drink, 30% of the garlic we use, and 85% of the tilapia we eat. Now processed chicken may be coming our way.
Foster Farms, Tyson and Perdue chicken tell us they have no plans to participate in the program.