KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three moms and food safety advocates have launched a petition on Change.orgasking the US Department of Agriculture to keep chicken processed in China out of US school meals and supermarkets.

Bettina Siegel, Nancy Huehnergarth and Barbara Kowalcyk launched the petition which has collected more than 200,000 signatures so far. Siegel, author of the Lunch Tray Blog, successfully campaigned to remove lean finely textured beef (LFTB) from the National School Lunch Program.

In August, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said China's poultry processing systems are equivalent to systems in the US, which means China may export processed chicken to the US if the product is fully cooked before export. However, FSIS said the agency is currently auditing China's slaughter inspection system, and that no chickens raised or slaughtered in China may be shipped to the US even if they are processed.

Siegel said she began researching the issue after readers of her blog began asking if chicken nuggets made in China would be included in school lunches. Siegel said what she found was troubling, and she joined with Kowalcyk of the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention and Huehnergarth, who is a national food policy consultant, to launch the campaign against Chinese chicken on Change.org.

On the Change.org website, the authors of the petition state "China has an unusually troubling record when it comes to food safety. Specific instances include: dangerously high levels of mercury found in Chinese baby formula; more than 16,000 diseased pig carcasses dumped in a river to rot; more than $1 million worth of rat and other small mammal meat sold to Chinese consumers as lamb; and more than 300,000 Chinese children sickened, with several dying, from melamine-tainted milk powder."

The petition states in part: "Importing Chinese-raised or -processed chicken to the United States could pose a potential threat to our national public health and safety. We ask you to protect American consumers and children from any possible food safety risks posed by chicken raised, slaughtered, or processed in China."
The petition was sent to US Representatives Robert Aderholt, Roy Blunt and Mark Pryor; US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, President Barack Obama and California state Rep. Sam Farr.