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Food safety policy on the move

Inside U.S. Trade had some good news on the food safety front:

The House of Representatives at press time (Aug. 2) was scheduled to take up an agriculture appropriations bill that included more money for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and report language asking USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to outline a plan for its international activities with its 2009 budget request.

On food safety, the bill granted the full request for FSIS for an increase of $38 million from fiscal year 2007 spending. The committee report called the U.S. food safety system “dangerously inadequate,” pointing as evidence to spinach, seafood, pet food and peanut butter recalls.

The bill also blocked the use of USDA funds to import poultry products from China, which the accompanying report says is due to fears of the H5N1 virus causing avian influenza. The report stated China has “weak government controls,” as well as a high incidence of H5N1, and that there is infrequent U.S. oversight at Chinese processing facilities.

The prohibition would apply to the rule currently in effect that allows imports of U.S. poultry processed in China, and a rule being drafted to allow imports of processed poultry from animals raised in China, the report said.

The poultry news is probably of more consequence. As a group of famous Canadian philosophers once put it, "Chickity China the Chinese chicken; You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin."

On the funding "increase," $38 million is equal to only 0.004% of discretionary spending, or about 0.0000775% what we will spend on defense spending that year. Most Americans would probably think that the safety of the food we eat is a lot more important than overseas adventures. Hat tip to the CEPR Budget Calculator for the calculation, and to Tony Corbo at Food & Water Watch for working this issue of Chinese chicken for over a year.

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