Meat import approvals need reform: DeLauro

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Claiming the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval of meat imports is too lenient toward other countries, the system needs to be reviewed and perhaps overhauled, said U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D.-Conn.), who heads the House committee in charge of appropriating money to the department, during a recent hearing.

According to a Reuters report, Ms. DeLauro said a move by U.S.D.A. earlier this decade toward allowing imports of Chinese poultry demonstrates trade concerns play too big of a role in what should be a public health issue. Ms. DeLauro said when a country grants equivalency, that country loses most control of the process. Her committee has stopped U.S.DA. from allowing Chinese chicken imports and proposed the ban remain through 2010.

Although the Senate hasn’t passed its version of the bill that includes the ban on Chinese chicken, it has proposed special inspections that would allow for the imports. The ban has angered Chinese officials, who recently stopped issuing import permits for U.S. chicken, which threatens the largest export market for U.S. poultry worth almost $700 million annually. China has since filed a complaint at the World Trade Organization against the ban. Some analysts have also linked China's refusal to import U.S. beef to the chicken controversy.

During the hearing, most lawmakers on the subcommittee expressed skepticism about the safety of meat imports. U.S.D.A. should overhaul its approval process for meat imports and do more monitoring of foreign plants, several consumer groups also testified.

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