Consumer Rights Even though were going to be shipping our poultry to China, theres no guarantee that thats what were going to be getting back, Tony Corbo, a lobbyist with Washington-based Food & Water Watch , said in a phone interview. There are all sorts of consumer right-to-know issues going on here. Kish, with the Agriculture Department, said We do not believe the product would be repackaged in the United States. If it were, it would have to be done so by Agriculture Department inspectors and labeled as a product of the U.S., she said in an e-mail. In 2004 China asked the Agriculture Department to audit its processing plants so that poultry could be exported, according to the agency. The U.S. Congress in 2009 lifted a ban on Chinese-processed poultry, and after a final audit of Chinas plants in March, the U.S. agency in August agreed that Chinas facilities were equivalent to those in the U.S. Under the terms of the agreement, chicken sent to China for processing must be raised and slaughtered in either the U.S. or Canada, and all poultry must be fully cooked at least 165.2 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius) before being sent back to the U.S. to be eaten. USDA inspections will occur at U.S. borders, and agency auditors will review Chinas poultry processing system each year. Plant Inspections The quality of those inspections may be subject to questioning, since the administration of President Barack Obama has yet to fully enact the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, aimed at being the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. food safety in 70 years. The administration this year proposed the first major regulations for domestic and imported food, which Congress called for after poisonings related to cookie dough, spinach, jalapenos and other foods killed at least nine people and sickened more than 700 in 2008 and 2009.
(Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post.) Yesterday we cited a report that predicted federal food aid funneled through the states would dry up quickly if Congress fails to pass a bill authorizing some funding beyond Oct. 1. Well, the Department of Agriculture now says that thats true for some programs, but not for all. In a document outlining its contingency plan for a potential shutdown next week, USDA said funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits formerly known as food stamps in October will continue under authority granted by the 2009 stimulus bill. In addition, the agency said, states might still also be able to receive partial reimbursements for related administrative costs from a $2 billion contingency fund. Child nutrition programs including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will also continue into October, the USDA said. But not all food aid will continue. Federal funding for administration and benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children which provides grants to states for food aid, health care referrals and nutrition education for some low-income women and children will cease if the government shuts down. States may be able to pull from some leftover funds for a week or so, but would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period, the USDA report said. Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post’s state and local policy blog. Before that he covered budget, tax and transportation policy for National Journal, blogged at The Atlantic and covered the business of the nation’s largest law firms in California for The Recorder.
FDA: Criminal case shows food safety is paramount
Criminal charges are rare in food-borne illnesses, but the FDA under President Obama has been more aggressive in pursuing farmers and food processors for alleged lapses, said Michael Doyle, director of University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. “I think the FDA is sending a strong message that the produce industry is going to have to raise the bar to ensure the safety of the, basically, ready-to-consume foods,” he said. It’s the second such warning from the agency, Doyle said. In February, four former employees of a peanut company were charged in Georgia federal court with scheming to manufacture and ship tainted peanuts. A 2009 salmonella outbreak blamed on the peanuts killed nine people and sickened hundreds. The four pleaded not guilty. STORY: Colo. farmers arrested in listeria outbreak that killed 33 The listeria epidemic traced to Jensen Farms was the nation’s deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness in 25 years. The FDA concluded the melons likely were contaminated in Jensen Farms’ packing house. It said dirty water on a floor, and old, hard-to-clean equipment probably were to blame. Ryan Jensen and his brother Eric Jensen pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from a 2011 listeria outbreak. (Photo: Ed Andrieski, AP) The Jensens’ trial is scheduled to start Dec.