Lawmakers: No Chinese chicken in school lunch

A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers is pushing to keep Chinese-processed chicken out of school lunches, and poultry slaughtered in China out of the United States altogether.

In a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of committees responsible for Agriculture Department funding, 14 House members urged language in 2014 spending legislation that expressly bars chicken processed in China from the National School Lunch Program and other federal nutrition programs.

The plea follows an August finding by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service that fully cooked chicken products processed in China can be exported to the United States.

"Consider the impact of China's weak enforcement of food safety laws and regulations,” the lawmakers, led by Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-Conn.), wrote.

They pointed to a series of illness outbreaks and scandals involving food safety in China, including the sickening of hundreds of thousands of children from tainted milk, revelations that rat meat was passed off as lamb and the discovery of 16,000 diseased pig carcasses dumped in a river to rot.

Current regulations prohibit chicken that was raised or slaughtered in China from being exported to the United States. But the lawmakers said they worry that ongoing audits of Chinese slaughterhouses could pave the way for a proposal to allow China to export raw poultry to the United States.

They urged leaders of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over Agriculture Department appropriations to deny the agency any funding to implement regulations allowing chicken slaughtered in China into the U.S. food supply.