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US inspectors will make sure Chinese chicken imports are safe, Agriculture secretary says

  • Tight U.S. food inspections should give American consumers confidence in the safety of new Chinese chicken imports, Secretary Sonny Perdue says.
  • The Agriculture secretary is set to travel to China on Wednesday to formally mark the return of U.S. beef there after a 13-year hiatus.

Tight U.S. food inspections should give American consumers confidence in the safety of new Chinese chicken imports, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told CNBC on Tuesday.

In last month's trade agreement with China, the U.S. agreed to allow Chinese cooked poultry to enter U.S. markets in exchange for China bringing back U.S. beef imports.

"We're talking about cooked chicken," said Perdue, indicating uncooked chicken generally poses a greater food safety risk. "The good thing about it is our food safety inspection agency, in the USDA, does a marvelous job."

Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, also said Chinese chicken won't hurt American poultry producers. "I don't think there's really any fear of major chicken poultry protein coming the U.S."

The secretary, who is not related to the family that owns Perdue Farms, is set to travel to China on Wednesday to formally mark the return of U.S. beef to the Chinese market after a 13-year hiatus. China banned U.S. beef imports after the discovery of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Washington state in late 2003.

"Those concerns were not justified. I think it was a single animal that came from Canada that had the BSE, or the mad cow disease. And we felt like the suspension of imports from the U.S. was a difficult and wrong decision," Perdue said. "We've had no experience and no evidence of ... [ mad cow disease] in over 13 years."

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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