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Stabenow, Vilsack comment on Chinese company’s plan to buy Smithfield

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said today that she has food safety concerns about a Chinese company’s plans to buy U.S. meat producer Smithfield Foods, while Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he is generally concerned about food safety.

Shuanghui International has announced plans to buy Virginia-based Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer and processor.

“The agencies responsible for approving this possible merger must take China’s and Shuanghui’s troubling track record on food safety into account, and do everything in their power to ensure our national security and the health of our families is not jeopardized,” Stabenow said in a news release.

“Just two years ago, Shuanghui International admitted to putting illegal additives in its food products. Earlier this year, more than 9,000 dead hogs were found floating in a river in Shanghai after having been dumped there by farmers after the hogs contracted disease,” Stabenow added. “Beyond pork, many reports of food contamination have recently plagued China’s entire food system.”

If the proposed purchase is approved, it would be the largest acquisition of an American company by a Chinese company in history, she noted.

When Vilsack was asked at a National Press Club event about the potential Smithfield sale, he replied, “There are probably a lot of agencies working at this.”

Vilsack said that he was generally concerned about the food supply and that he would not focus on a single transaction. But he did note that China has had problems with food safety.