NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186 h Email Address: [email protected] h

Edited by Kiran Kernellu

October 7, 2002




The Trustee in Supreme Beef Processors' bankruptcy proceeding has filed a lawsuit against USDA in Federal Court in Tyler, Texas. This is a different court from the Federal Court in Dallas, which in 1999 enjoined USDA from suspending Supreme's inspection.


The new suit alleges that by applying performance standards, which were later determined to be invalid, by withdrawing its school lunch business and by generally disparaging Supreme, USDA caused the company to suffer substantial losses and damage. The specific charges in the complaint include tortious interference with prospective business relations and with existing contracts, slander, business disparagement and breach of contract. The Trustee's lawsuit has no precedent and is the sort of contentious action that no company continuing to operate under USDA inspection would ever be likely to file. The Trustee as plaintiff will have the burden of proving his allegations, which are easy to recite in a legal complaint but challenging to prove in a court proceeding. USDA will in all likelihood rely first and foremost on the defense of "sovereign immunity," which protects government agencies from lawsuits based on things done in the course of carrying out their official responsibilities.




Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced 13 appointments to the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Board today. The 13-member board is composed of six producers and three feeders, one seedstock producer, and three first‑handlers.


Following are the appointees: (members representing producers) Nicholas L. Forrest, OH, Mary E. Clarke, CO, Margaret C. Magruder, OR, John L. Oswalt, MI, Michael A. Guerry, ID, Thomas A. Kourlis, CO; (members representing feeders) Joseph O. Harper, WV, Larry S. (Spencer) Rule, CO, William D. (David) Winters, TX; (members representing first handlers) William R. Brennan, IA, Teddie R. Crippen, OR, and Kevin R. Quam, CO. The appointed seedstock producer is Joanne G. Evans, PA.  


The appointees will serve one-, two- or three-year terms. During each subsequent year, the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint one‑third of all board members for 3‑year terms. Established under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 and the Lamb Promotion, Research and Information Order, the board will be financed by a mandatory assessment of one‑half cent ($.005) per pound on ovine animals of any age, including ewes and rams, sold by producers, seedstock producers, feeders and exporters. An assessment of $.30 per head must also be paid by first‑handlers. Assessments began on July 1, 2002, and are being collected by the USDA. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service monitors operations of the board.




Many thanks to Teddie Crippen and the staff at Superior Farms. NMA, in conjunction with Superior Farms, broadcast the American Lamb Campaign, “Taste the Freshness,” which was honored with a Telly Award this year. The Telly Awards is a nationwide competition honoring outstanding non-network television commercials and programs and non-broadcast video and film productions.


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This is an opportunity to get your questions answered regarding INS issues in a simple-to-attend 1-hour teleconference, October 22, 2002 from 9:00-10:00 a.m. PDT. John Linker and David Barron of Alaniz & Schraeder, a law firm specializing in Industrial Relations in Houston, TX will provide information on “Complying with I-9 Procedures,” “Handling Employees that Present New Documentation,” “Discrimination Issues Relating to Employment Eligibility,” and “Responding to a Social Security Administration Letter.” If you have not received your registration form, call NMA at 510-763-1533 or 202-667-2108 for your copy.




Berkeley High School’s program to serve gourmet organic lunches in its school cafeteria was not continued from last school year. According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle, the food court petered out and hasn’t returned. Despite offerings from such renowned chefs as Alice Waters, students continued to go off campus for lunch. Students reportedly preferred the larger and less-expensive portions from nearby fast-food chains and delis. In fact, students en masse walked right by the food court, tucked out of sight in a hallway of the campus theatre, to eat out.


The number of meals consumed at the high school dropped 33% last year, according to Child Nutrition Advisory Committee data. The food court sold only about 250 meals per day to the student body of about 3,000. The food services budget fell $1,000,000 into the red last year.




The time is quickly approaching for the verification points to be moved to the Mexico side of the border – October 10, 2002. According to USMEF, Mexico reports that five new Mexican inspection facilities are authorized to go into operation for the October 10 deadline. Two facilities in Colombia, Nuevo Léon, and one each in Nuevo Laredo, Puerto Morelos and the Pacific Coast town of Manzanillo are ready to take over from north-of-the-border sites eliminated under a new Mexican law. Six other sites, in Juarez, Colombia, Nuevo Laredo and three in Tijuana, are awaiting inspection by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA). Also, a facility in Mexicali and two additional sites in Tijuana and Colombia are under construction. Mexican plants that are federally inspected (TIF) are also Verification Points only for product directly shipped to the TIF plant.


The new Animal Health Law was published June 12 in the Mexican Government's Daily Register and it is to be fully implemented by October 10. Current rules and regulations stay in effect until then. Contact Kiran Kernellu at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected] to request further details.



There is a new show premiering this fall on RFD-TV that you don't want to miss! The Cattle Show is a television program dedicated to the cattle industry of America. It provides both entertainment and educational information to its viewers by highlighting cattle raisers across the nation.
The contents for the shows consist of American ranchers in different aspects of the cattle industry, beef, buckers, showmanship, dairies, auctions, veterinary care and much more. It is designed to appeal to the dedicated rancher, rural Americans and the average consumer, featuring
interesting story lines.


The Cattle Show airs on RFD-TV, on both the DISH network channel 9409 and DIRECTV channel 379. It is a weekly show and can be seen Tuesday evenings at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday at 8:00 a.m., Saturday at 5:00 p.m. and Sunday at 11:00 p.m.

Visit The Cattle Show at:


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The Food Standard Agency reported that the European Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) concluded that there is no evidence justifying the possible inclusion of sheep casings in the list of specified risk materials. Specified risk materials are defined as the parts of the animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity if present. The SSC considered the most recent data on BSE and sheep casings at its meeting last month to decide this issue.


The SSC’s position is that additional measures should be taken only if BSE is found in sheep in the field. However, the Food Standard Agency asserted that it would be too late at that point for any new measures. The public would likely have consumed any potentially infected material already. The SSC has acknowledged that estimates of infectivity in natural sheep casings after processing vary appreciably. The Agency has proposed that research scientists consider the estimates “at an European Union (EU) level to see if a common understanding can be reached on the issue.”


The Agency has recommended a “precautionary European Union-wide ban on sheep intestine.” Its position remains that action in this matter is only appropriate at the EU level. Contact Kiran Kernellu at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected] for a copy of this article. It is also available at:




Seafood and fresh produce have been found to be the most common source of foodborne illness. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), during the period 1990-1992, eggs and beef ranked fourth, and poultry fifth as causes of outbreaks of foodborne illness. CSPI, using reports from CDC, other government sources, scientific journals, and newspaper reports, among others, tallied 2,472 outbreaks and 90,355 cases of foodborne illness during the two-year period. Caroline Smith DeWaal, an attorney for CSPI, told the National Chicken Council “produce is causing a surprising number of food poisoning outbreaks…contaminated produce needs an urgent government response.”


CSPI has also called for a single, independent food-safety agency, increased inspections of food-processing facilities, new government authority to recall contaminated foods, and a government mandate to require feedlots, factory farms, and other livestock producers to raise and transport animals in ways that facilitate the prevention of microbial contamination.




The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is developing “machine-vision” systems to detect contamination. The on-line system directs a camera to take three spectral images though different color filters. A computer then analyzes the spectral images to detect fecal contamination, fly specks, fungi, rot and other diseases. Yud-Ren Chen, an agricultural engineer with ARS, is starting the system with apples, but anticipates it will work with all fruits and produce.


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Robert Savage, President of the HACCP Consulting Group, represented NMA at a recent USDA sponsored public meeting in Kansas City, MO to discuss the Draft Directive 7310.4 Rev.3 entitled "Presence of Foreign Material in Meat and Poultry Products." Mr. Savage indicated that this is an opportunity to “improve the draft and remove much confusion within the regulated industry and the FSIS, field inspection force regarding the issue of foreign material and its relationship with plants’ HACCP plans.”


Mr. Savage identified a number of issues to consider, among which are:


v      additional definitions of "physical hazard"; "food safety hazard"; and "adulterated product."

v      consistent terminology throughout the directive regarding foreign material rather than "foreign particles" "extraneous material"' etc.

v      further emphasis for both industry and inspection personnel to distinguish between foreign material that "does" and that which "does not" represent a physical hazard as defined by HACCP. 

v      "functioning metal detector" to be further clarified to include within the critical limit the specific standards that the detector is calibrated to

v      addressing foreign material contamination in the establishment's Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) to be considered necessary.  There has been confusion regarding the content of SSOP programs and using it now to address foreign material contamination will may lend to more confusion.  Foreign material contamination should be addressed either in the establishment's HACCP plan or as a pre-requisite program.


Contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] for a copy of these comments in entirety.



NMA - East: 1400 - 16th St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington D.C. 20036 Ph. (202) 667-2108

NMA - West: 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612 Ph. (510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186


Edited by Kiran Kernellu

October 7, 2002



The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is publishing a Notice in the Federal Register today outlining the agency's revised policies on E. coli O157:H7 in raw beef products. The changes are significant at all levels of manufacture of beef product that may end up in ground beef. They are hugely significant and a “must” read for all members that slaughter and/or grind beef.


The most significant new policy is that all establishments producing raw beef must reassess their HACCP plans to determine whether E. coli O157:H7 is a food safety hazard reasonably likely to occur. This reassessment must be conducted within 60 days for large establishments; 120 days for small, and 180 days for very small establishments. FSIS will then verify compliance 15 days after the reassessment is scheduled to be completed.

The Notice references new agency guidance documents; reiterates FSIS policy to notify suppliers of raw materials when a ground product has tested positive for E. coli O157:H7; indicates FSIS may test trim at an establishment that is linked to a positive ground sample; identifies upcoming changes to the FSIS Directive 10,010.1 dealing with E. coli O157:H7; and discusses the agency's current thinking on non-intact (e.g., blade tenderized) products.

FSIS has determined E. coli O157:H7 is a food safety hazard reasonably likely to occur based on new studies showing that E. coli O157:H7 is more prevalent than previously thought, especially in the summer months (April through September). The agency acknowledges that its test sensitivity has increased and may be a contributing factor to the higher prevalence. There is a subtle change in terminology of reducing a hazard reasonably likely to occur to “a level that would not be detectable using the FSIS testing method or a method with a sensitivity at least equivalent to FSIS’ method.” Notification back through the cold chain when a ground product tests positive is re-emphasized, and FSIS may test trim at an establishment that is linked to a positive ground sample. The Notice identifies various scientific papers, the Draft Risk Assessment for E. coli O157:H7 that FSIS made available last November, the responses it has received from the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria in Foods, and anecdotal information it has from its field inspection personnel and from IDV teams that have followed up positive findings.


If an establishment in its reassessment decides that E. coli O157:H7 is not a food safety hazard reasonably likely to occur, it must be able to articulate a scientific or other credible basis for its decision. Importantly, if an establishment already has validated controls for E. coli O157:H7 in its HACCP plan and the establishment monitors and verifies such controls, it may not need to conduct the reassessment. Nevertheless, it may be prudent for an establishment to do so to ensure it has considered the new prevalence data on E. coli O157:H7.
In addition, FSIS is now requesting that grinders try to avoid mixing raw materials from different grinders so as to facilitate identification of the source of the E. coli O157:H7 contamination. This may be near to impossible to achieve since grinders blend product of different known lean/fat ratios in order to meet customer specifications. The agency will be more flexible in allowing the establishment to determine the lot implicated by a positive finding. Under the current Directive, a lot is defined as all product with common food contact surfaces from clean-up to clean-up.  Now, an establishment can use a different lot size provided there is a scientific or other basis to support the size selected. The agency will not automatically conduct 15-day follow-up samples. Rather it will use its discretion in selecting an appropriate verification period; and no agency sample will be taken until the product has passed the establishment's pre-shipment review.

Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of the "point source" rule. Under this rule, common raw materials did not implicate separate lines provided the unit of the raw materials (carcass, combo or box) was not split between those lines. This rule will no longer be used or recognized. If there is a single source for multiple lots, all lots made with the same raw materials are implicated by a positive finding unless the establishment has some scientific basis to justify why the lots should be treated separately. We will be seeking further clarification from the agency on this issue.

The final issue involves whether non-intact product, such as blade-tenderized beef, should continue to be deemed adulterated if it is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food has reviewed this issue at the request of FSIS and concluded that there is insufficient data to assess whether such products present a greater risk than intact whole muscle cuts. Although the draft FSIS risk assessment does not indicate a higher risk, until additional data as to the adequacy of consumer cooking is obtained, FSIS will maintain its current policy that such products are adulterated if they bear E. coli O157:H7.


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USDA reported today that COOL guidelines have been reviewed and hopefully will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow.  Cattle Buyers Weekly reported last week that COOL guidelines might not be completed until December, though USDA officials refuted this. Concerns by senior USDA officials reportedly are the source of the delay of publication from the September 30 deadline. The guidelines will apply to all fresh red meat, but not poultry. It’s not known whether these voluntary guidelines will be final rules.




USDA approved a plan to reduce the Pork Checkoff assessment to $0.40 per $100.00 of hogs sold, effective September 30. This is a reduction of $0.05 from last year. USDA estimates the cut will reduce annual checkoff funds by as much as $6 million. In March during their annual meeting, the National Pork Producers Delegate Body voted in favor of lowering the rate, probably a response to the sharp drop in hog prices of late. In a report to InfoMeat chairman of the National Pork Board’s budget committee David Culbertson said, “The impact of the reduction will result in reduced programming.” About 20% of checkoff funds go to state pork organizations for promotion, research and consumer information programs. Culbertson further stated that “prioritization of programs and use of reserves, together with good management, will help [them] minimize the impact of reduced revenues.”




USDA has awarded $14.2 million in competitive grants for 40 integrated food safety projects. The grants were awarded through the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative, a program administered by USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), that supports grant projects developed by multi-state, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary food safety teams colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Following are recipients of grants related to meat:


v      University of California, Davis - $572,264 to assess risk factors that lead to Salmonella enteritidis in almond orchards.

v      Illinois Institute of Technology - $434,153 to develop control measures for Listeria monocytogenes in processed, ready-to-eat foods using thermal, high pressure, irradiation treatments.

v      Michigan State University - $580,616 to develop methods to control microbes in dairy cattle from becoming resistant to antibiotics that kill foodborne pathogens; $50,000 to hold an international videoconference on topics relating to quality, safety, distribution, economic development, risk assessment, social issues and future directions of organically produced foods.

v      University of Nebraska - $38,150 to hold the second Governor’s Conference on Ensuring Meat Safety.

v      Cornell University - $392,178 to develop mathematical models that estimate when milk and meat are most vulnerable to contamination by Listeria monocytogenes.

v      North Carolina State University - $284,619 to develop a dynamic food safety education and evaluation strategy for the retail food industry; $520,715 to investigate the source, diversity and resistance of Salmonella campybolacter and Yersinia, in two sets of swine, one that has received antibiotics and the other not.

v      Pennsylvania State University - $327,066 to investigate the extent of infection/contamination of Salmonella newport on farms and its effect on cattle.

v      Texas A&M University - $213,185 to help researchers understand, simulate and predict the effects and distribution of irradiated food; $436,139 to identify optimum approaches for managing and regulating antimicrobial use while developing and delivering a curricula and educational materials on antimicrobial resistance for use by veterinarians and cattle producers.

v      Utah State University - $384,153 for instructional computer simulation modules to teach students about the science concepts behind the USDA’s Fight Bac! Public education program.