The American Meat Institute's response to China's suspension of seven U.S. pork and poultry products emphasizes that the actions are not based on sound science. "Products produced by the plants suspended by China were inspected and passed as wholesome and safe by USDA inspectors," says J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president. "U.S. food-safety standards are among the most stringent in the world and our pork and poultry products are recognized for their safety. These products could be sold in the United States and consumed safely by American consumers, yet China has rejected them."

As AMI points out, like all raw agricultural products, raw poultry products can contain low levels of bacteria, including Salmonella, which is what caused China to baulk at recent product shipments. This is normal and is allowed under USDA rules because the products are intended to be cooked. Salmonella would not be permitted on a product that was considered already cooked a ready to eat like a cooked chicken breast.

Likewise, the United States has Food and Drug Administration approved tolerance levels for ractopamine, which is a feed ingredient used by some pork producers that results in carcasses with more lean pork and less fat. However, China is enforcing a "zero-tolerance" policy for miniscule residues in pork, which have no food-safety impact, as allowed by the United States and many other nations.

"China's policies and actions to suspend these plants are inconsistent with the best available science," says Boyle. The pork and poultry products that have been rejected are safe, wholesome and eligible to be sold in the United States and many other nations throughout the world. We urge China to reconsider its actions."

Pork exports to China are up 51.3 percent for the January/May 2007 period compared with 2006 levels. Poultry exports to Hong Kong/China for the January/May 2007 period are down 7.4 percent from last year. According to USDA, the United States exported 640 million pounds of poultry to Mainland China and Hong Kong in 2006. Likewise, the United States exported 113.5 million pound of pork to Mainland China last year.

As for the rest of 2007, with China's pork supply reduced by animal-health issues this year, it appears that the country will be more active in the export market as a way to fill more of its pork needs. 

Source: American Meat Institute