Coalition Urges Rejection of Smithfield Takeover by Chinese Company

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Food and Water Watch has joined with other consumer and farm organizations to ask the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to reject the proposed Shuanghui Holdings acquisition of Smithfield Foods. The proposed purchase was announced in May 2013. Signers of the letter include Center for Rural Affairs, Land Stewardship Project, Missouri Farmers Union, National Farmers Union, and R-CALF USA.

The letter states the risks of food security, consumer food prices, food safety, and farm economies in the United States, along with national security. Tim Gibbons of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center said in a statement, 'the White House should reject the sale of America's food supply. This proposed acquisition is a prime example of how expanded corporate consolidation in agriculture has gone too far, resulting in lack of markets for independent producers, and damaging effects on our rural economies and country.'

Food safety advocates are concerned about risk. Food & Water Watch states that the Chinese food safety system is one of the most lax in the world. The 2008 melamine milk scandal in China is just one example; that compound added to milk sickened at least 300,000 children and infants in that country and at least six died. In May 2013, rat meat was sold as lamb in China, and pet treats made from Chinese ingredients, specifically poultry, have been sickening and killing animals in the U.S. for years.

In fact, the USDA is going through steps to approve China as an exporter of poultry products to the United States, even though USDA's own inspections of Chinese poultry facilities showed 'egregious food safety problems, including mishandling raw chicken throughout the processing areas, failing to perform E. coli and Salmonella testing, and routinely using dirty tools and equipment,' according to the letter. And the USDA replaced annual audit visits to foreign countries in 2009 with a 'Self-Reporting Tool' for exporters.

According to Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter, 'as recently as 2011, Shuanghui managers were sentenced to prison for allowing illegal veterinary drugs into the pork supply in China. We don't want to expose American consumers to such indifferent food safety standards. If Shuanghui eventually exported bacon, sausage, or ham to the United States under the well-known Smithfield brands like Armour or Gwaltney, American consumers would not even know, because processed pork is exempt from country of origin labeling.'

The letter also states that 'China's food supply has suffered from the persistent trend of 'economically motivated adulteration' and a culture of adulteration in China's food and agricultural sector. The purchase could export the less rigorous Chinese food manufacturing standards and business culture to Smithfield and erode its food quality and safety practices.'

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