Four Chinese poultry processors were approved by the Department of Agriculture to begin shipping a limited amount of meat to the United States, the New York Times reported Friday.
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To begin with, the companies will be allowed to export only cooked poultry products from birds raised in the United States and Canada.
However, critics predicted that the government would eventually expand the rules, so that chickens and turkeys bred in China could end up in the US market.
"This is the first step towards allowing China to export its own domestic chickens to the United States," said Torby Corbo, senior lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group that works to promote food safety.
This decision by the USDA follows years of wrangling over the issue and comes as Americans are increasingly focused on the origins of their foods.
In the past, imports have been the most common source of contamination, prompting broader concerns and worries about food safety.
The Food and Drug Administration released an analysis of imported spices, showing high levels of salmonella in coriander, oregano, sesame seeds and curry powder.