American Association of Meat Processors

American Meat Institute

Grocery Manufacturers of America

National Chicken Council

National Food Processors Association

National Meat Association

National Turkey Federation

North American Meat Processors Association

Southeastern Meat Association

Southwest Meat Association

May 25, 2000

We represent hundreds of companies and hundreds of thousands of employees who produce safe and wholesome meat and poultry every day. Our member companies support tough federal food safety standards that assure wholesome, safe meat and poultry for consumers.

We worked hard with government, scientists and consumers during the 1990s to develop the HACCP-based meat and poultry inspection system that was launched in 1996. We believe that system and our companies' own quality assurance programs allow U.S. meat and poultry to set the gold standard for food safety and quality worldwide.

Today's ruling by a federal judge does not impact USDA's decades-old legal authority to take regulatory action against meat and poultry firms to assure safe, wholesome meat and poultry. It does nothing to change USDA's new, HACCP-based meat and poultry inspection system that is working in thousands of plants today. All plants must operate under the HACCP system, and are subject to microbiological sampling performed by USDA. The essence of USDA's authority is to prevent the shipment of adulterated or misbranded products, and this authority is not affected by today's ruling.

The ruling effectively affirms what scientists have been saying all along: Salmonella incidence in raw meat is not an indication of sanitation in the plant.

The meat and poultry industry supports the use of microbiological sampling to measure performance trends and to verify compliance with HACCP requirements. However, it is clear from today's ruling that USDA's Salmonella performance standard is flawed. Therefore, we strongly recommend that USDA immediately convene the appropriate scientific experts from its National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods to determine how a scientifically-based standard could be designed for maximum food safety benefit.