The Senate Committee Agriculture Committee plans to hold a hearing next month to look into the proposed sale of Smithfield Foods to Shuanghui International, committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced on Thursday.
The hearing, scheduled for July 10, will focus on the pending purchase of Smithfield — the world’s largest pork producer and processor — and what it might mean for future acquisitions.
According to the committee, the hearing will also “more broadly examine how the government review process of foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies addresses American food safety, protection of American technologies and intellectual property, and the effects of increased foreign ownership of the U.S. food supply.”
Last week a bipartisan group of senators serving on the agriculture committee urged Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to include both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration in the government review of the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods. The Senators pressed for USDA and FDA involvement so that the oversight process includes experts on the American food supply and food safety. The letter also raised questions about potential future foreign acquisitions of American food companies such as those that will be considered in the hearing announced today.
The committee said Smithfield Foods CEO Larry Pope will be among the witnesses testifying. Additional witnesses to be announced. A live webcast of the hearing can be viewed online at http://ag.senate.gov.
This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a longtime consumer advocate turned lawmaker, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) also wrote a letter to Obama administration officials, including Mr. Lew, Attorney General Eric Holder, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging careful review of the proposed deal.
“While initially the deal may increase U.S. exports to China, over time the United States could in fact begin to import pork products from China,” read the letter. “Such a development would raise a host of food safety concerns as China’s food safety system remains wholly inadequate leading to unsafe exported food products.”
“Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China’s food exports to the United States tripled to 4.1 billion pounds of food in 2012,” the letter continued. “Yet, oversight of China’s food producers has not kept up with the sharp increase in imports. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects less than 2 percent of imported produce, processed food and seafood. Even with a Memorandum of Understanding between the FDA and China’s Certification and Accreditation Administration signed in 2010, the FDA only conducted 10 inspections of food facilities in China in fiscal year 2012.”