WASHINGTON – US Sen. Charles Schumer said the US Department of Agriculture plans to allow imports of chicken raised and slaughtered in China, and he's not happy about it.

Schumer told radio station WCBC 880 that China had been a source of food poisoning in the United States for years and that the USDA's plan to allow imports of poultry slaughtered and processed in China poses a food safety risk to American consumers.

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.

FSIS is legally bound to move forward with an audit. In 2010, a World Trade Organization panel ruled that the US was in violation of a number of its trade obligations by preventing Chinese chicken parts from entering the US market. In December 2010, China requested an FSIS audit of its poultry slaughter system. FSIS said the agency has not released the results of the audit because it has not been finalized. But China will be required to take corrective actions if problems are found with China's poultry slaughtering process.

In response to Sen. Schumer's statement that the USDA found China's poultry slaughter system equivalent to that of US, USDA said: "USDA has not found China's poultry slaughter system to be equivalent and therefore poultry slaughtered in China is not allowed to be imported to the United States. The US food supply is among the safest in the world, and the Food Safety Inspection Service is dedicated to maintaining that status."