In case you missed the live video of the meeting, here’s what happened when the Congressional Executive Commission on China met with USDA, FDA and some representatives of consumers.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) hosted the hearing. The first to speak was USDA representative Daniel Engeljohn, discussing the soon-to-be processing of US poultry in China. Both Senator Brown and Representative Smith grilled the USDA representative about the safety of chicken for human consumption being processed in China. Representative Chris Smith did a fabulous job representing the sentiments of many U.S. consumers questioning again and again the safety history of consumer goods from China. And he pointed out that China was the only non-democracy nation that has USDA approval for importing processed chicken into the U.S. Representative Smith shared that in the U.S. for example, a whistle blower or blogger could alert the public to safety issues. In a non-democratic country such as China, a whistle blower “might be taken out back and hauled away in a van”. His safety concerns led to questions of how long would it take the U.S. to respond – should a problem in the processing plant (in China) be found? The USDA’s answer…at least 6 months.
But at this point, it appears that U.S. raised and slaughtered poultry will in the not too distant future begin to be processed in China. Very few products that contain this chicken will be labeled ‘Processed in China’.
The FDA representative that spoke was Tracey Forfa. Besides being proficient at reading the FDA statement, Ms. Forfa provided little to no additional information to Senator Brown or Representative Smith. Her most consistent response…“I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
We did learn from this hearing that the Chinese government is actively delaying the visa’s for numerous FDA representatives to begin working in China (inspecting jerky plants, working with suppliers in China). Ms. Forfa of FDA couldn’t respond to when FDA representatives would be provided with visa’s.
Ms Forfa of FDA couldn’t explain the legal background of a pet food or treat product containing a USA flag (Made in USA) on the label. She couldn’t tell the Congressmen what the regulations are governing pet food labels. In fact, after stumbling and stammering for a response, Ms. Forfa admitted the FDA doesn’t have labeling laws in regards to pet food.
When Senator Brown asked the FDA representative ‘Should people be confident when they see the Made in USA statement on a pet food or treat that it is safe…safer?’ After stumbling and stammering for her words again, Ms. Forfa of FDA told the Congressmen a less than truthful statement. She said: ‘pet food is comparable to human food’. No Ms. Forfa, that is absolutely not true. Unlike human food, pet food is provided legal loopholes to food safety law (known as FDA Compliance Policies) – these loopholes allow pet food to include illegal ingredients such as meat from diseased animals, euthanized animals, chemical laden fruits and vegetables and more. Unlike human food, pet food ingredient definitions are an entirely different language, and nutritional information on pet food labels is nothing like that of human food.
Another issue discussed during the hearing which has gotten little mention to the public (as far as I know of) is the human rights issues surrounding China.
I’ve heard from several pet food consumers that watched the hearing – all were pleased with the straightforward approach of the Congressmen, all were very disappointed in the FDA representative, and all wished more time would have been given to the jerky treats issue. From my perspective, I was left with even stronger feelings to…why are so many pet food and treat companies buying ingredients from a country that has so many issues/concerns? And why is the U.S. even considering allowing U.S. poultry to be processed in China taking more jobs away from the U.S. and certainly putting more consumers at risk?
I’m not sure how long the hearing video will remain on the Congressional Executive Commission on China website, but Click Here to view it while you can.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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