NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Kiran Kernellu
November 25, 2002
PRESIDENT BUSH’S PROCLAMATION - NATIONAL FARM-CITY WEEK, 2002
On Friday, President Bush released a proclamation regarding National Farm-City Week, 2002. This is a week to commemorate the “accomplishments of all those who work together to produce and promote America's agricultural abundance.” With this Farm-City Week observance, the Administration is commending “the many Americans whose hard work and ingenuity reflect the true spirit of America and help ensure a prosperous future for all.” Moreover, President Bush “encourage[s] citizens to strengthen [their] understanding of the American farm-city partnership by participating in appropriate community events and celebrations.”
The President also states in the Proclamation, “Agriculture has always been a cornerstone of our Nation's way of life. As wise stewards and innovative entrepreneurs, our dedicated farmers and ranchers improve our well-being by working to ensure a healthy and abundant agricultural supply. To succeed in this important enterprise, our farmers rely on essential partnerships with urban communities to supply, sell, and deliver finished products across the country and around the world. During National Farm-City Week, we recognize the importance of this cooperative network to the success of America’s agricultural industry.”
According to the Proclamation, agriculture employs more than 24 million workers including farmers, shippers, processors, marketers, grocers, truck drivers, inspectors, and others who annually contribute over $1.3 trillion to the gross domestic product. Internationally, American farmers export over $50 billion in products that help feed people in countries around the world.
The President has pledged to foster opportunities for our farmers in international markets, encourage further economic growth, and reduce tariffs and other barriers to worldwide food distribution.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!
NMA wishes all its members and stakeholders a Happy Thanksgiving. Please remember to apply food safety practices on this holiday and at every meal. The USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline is available on Thanksgiving Day at 800-256-7072 from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. EST to help.
The following are dates of the next “Reassessment of HACCP Plan to Meet the Revised E. coli O157:H7 Requirements” seminars:
v December 12, 2002 – Kansas City, MO
v Thursday, January 9, 2003 – Los Angeles, CA
v Sunday, March 2, 2003 – Las Vegas, NV
AMSA/NMA’S WESTERN SCIENCE CONFERENCE – MARCH 5-6
RIO ALL-SUITE CASINO RESORT,
LAS VEGAS, NV
IRE OVER IRRADIATION!
In a recent commentary in The Washington Times irradiation is called "the most effective way to prevent contaminated meat from getting into the nation's food supply." Very much like the technology of pasteurization, irradiation has some vocal opponents. As noted in The Times piece, "no matter how rigorous the inspection of slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, that cannot prevent post-inspection mishandling or undercooking of meat."
Despite the merits of irradiation, it has failed to gain widespread acceptance in the food industry. According to The Record of Stockton, CA, recent large recalls of meat products prompted many supermarkets in the East and Midwest to stock up on irradiated products. A California company, San Diego-based SureBeam Corp., patented an irradiation process for meat products. A Washington Post report relayed that in recent weeks, 10 new major retailers have signed up for SureBeam’s technology. However, Omaha Steaks and Schwan’s Sales Enterprises are among few companies offering irradiated meat to Californians.
Supermarkets have reportedly been slow to adopt the technology even though it’s been in existence for nearly 40 years, according to Dr. Christine Bruhn, director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California at Davis. Indeed, irradiation is regularly used on spices, astronaut food, military meals and Band-Aids, reported The Post. It’s likely that companies fear protests and bad publicity.
While some consumer groups would agree that irradiation is a safe process with negligible health risks, there seems to be a perception that it may decrease the improvement of safe meat-handling techniques. Director of Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Caroline Smith deWaal said, “With irradiation, the meat is assumed to be contaminated. We’d like to see steps taken earlier to make sure whatever is in the meat is safe.”
Sentiments like these are common, but unfounded. In fact, the industry is always working to enhance food safety. Technology, irradiation being one case in point, is often the product of industry initiative. Irradiation would not replace any of the safety techniques in use in the industry. CDC physician Andi L. Shane said, “Anything that can be done to improve food safety, such as irradiation, is generally something that could be looked upon as advantageous.”
For more on irradiation, see the July 8 and 15 Lean Trimmings. Read more about advances in food safety at http://www.nmaonline.org/files/meatsafety.pdf.
INPUT ON IRRADIATION INVITED
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced Friday that it is seeking input about the use of approved food safety technologies for commodity purchase programs. A requirement in the 2002 Farm Bill states that USDA “shall not prohibit the use of any technology to improve food safety that has been approved by the Secretary of Agriculture or has been approved or is other wise allowed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services” for use in various commodity purchase programs.
Such technologies include ant-microbial chemical rinses, Ultra Violet light, and irradiation. The agency has compiled facts and information about the various technologies at http://www.usda.gov/fst. The site offers CDC, FDA and USDA fact sheets, questions and answers, scientific research and other information. Comments will be considered as the Agency examines implementation specifications. Submit comments to Livestock and Seed Programs, Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Stop 0249, Room 2092-S, Washington, DC 20250-0249; fax (202) 720-3499; e-mail [email protected].
Organic agriculture is still knee-deep in controversy. In fact, the issue has found new depths. For those that advocate all organic food, the consensus is that it’s just not viable.
Dennis Avery, Director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI), said during the "The Global Challenge - Sustainable Food Production" symposium on November 18th, "Some tout organic farming as the answer, yet scientific data show that if organic farming practices were employed on a global basis, the consequences would be an environmental catastrophe. Additionally, organic practices even on a limited scale are challenged by groups like the Scottish Crop Research Institute as being ecologically unsound."
Avery also said, "While children in Southern Africa and other famine stricken areas of the world die of starvation, it is indefensible for wealthy and technology-rich countries like the United Kingdom to be growing less of the food which they are capable of producing and increasing their agricultural demands from other countries to support this inexplicable desire for organic fad foods."
According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, a University of Manitoba researcher has estimated that in an organic-farming-only world, it would take the manure of 7 to 8 billion additional cattle to replace all the nitrogen presently used in conventional agriculture. And the government of Denmark, one of the world’s most organic-friendly nations, has concluded that converting the entire country to organic agriculture would slash food production by 47 percent.
OUT OF HARM'S WAY?
Organic products are often touted as healthier. However, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) provided a differing view of organics. The Institute has brought the issue of pathogens in organic products to the table.
In a report in FoodNavigator.com, IFT food science expert Carl Winter, the director of the FoodSafe Program at University of California at Davis said, "Consumers need to understand that organic production does not mean pesticide-free and pathogen-free production." Further, “Organic foods are not superior in nutritional quality or safety when compared against conventional foods. Yet, organics do have the potential for greater pathogen contamination. Thus, purchasing organically grown produce is not necessary for safety or nutritional reasons.”
"Organics cannot supply foods always free from pathogens or pesticides, and cannot provide our nation with a more nutritional, diverse, and safe food supply than we currently enjoy," said Mark McLellan, IFT president and director of the Institute of Food Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University.
The Beyond Basics: HACCP Plan Improvement Workshop for Raw, Not Ground, and Raw Ground Operations will take place December 3-4, 2002 in College Station, TX. Co-sponsors NMA, Southwest Meat Association (SMA), and the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University have organized this workshop to cover flow chart review and evaluation, review of and scientific support of a hazard analysis, defending the selection of CCPs, support and selection of monitoring and verification frequencies, HACCP plan validation schemes, composing decision-making documentation, and compiling supporting documentation.
Participants must bring their company’s slaughter HACCP plans to work with organizers to improve their plans. Space is limited to accommodate hands-on interaction.
Contact NMA for registration information at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected]. The cost is $600 for SMA and NMA members and $750 for non-members. SMA has secured a block of rooms at the Hampton Inn in College Station at a rate of $69 plus tax. Contact the hotel directly at (979) 846-0184 to make a reservation. Ask for the Southwest Meat Association block of rooms.
NMA WILL BE CLOSED NOVEMBER 28- 29, 2002 FOR THE THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY.
WELCOME NEW DEPUTY DISTRICT MANAGERS
NMA welcomes two new Deputy District Managers in the Alameda District, CA. Mr. Abdalla Amin comes from Enforcement group in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Yudhbir Sharma previously served as Circuit Supervisor in Modesto, CA. Congratulations!
MEETING ON THE RECALL PROCESS
FSIS will hold a public meeting on Thursday, December 12, 2002 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C. to discuss improving the recall process for meat, poultry and egg products. You may register on site, but pre-registration is encouraged. Contact Mary Harris at (202) 690-6497 or [email protected].
NMA reports news items that are of special interest to our readers, and provides information that they may want to be able to access. Below are links to the Federal Register, AMS, APHIS, and FSIS, respectively.
NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION
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
November 25, 2002
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX) announced his resignation earlier this month. His resignation will be effective May 31, 2003, after which Texas Governor Rick Perry must order a special election to fill the vacant seat. The special election will be held 36-50 days after the order is made.
Chairman Combest has been a long-time champion of the industry. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman commended him, as “he has provided strong, effective leadership on agricultural and trade issues as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. His dedicated service in Congress has benefited the nation’s farmers and ranchers.” Veneman also stated that she was sorry to hear of his plans to leave Congress.
Chairman Combest has decided to resign in order to spend more time with his family. The tragic deaths of his father in June 2002, and his daughter Tonya in 1999, have made him “realize how fragile life and health are,” according to a story in the Associated Press. Chairman Combest has facilitated improvements for the nation, as well as its constituents, through his dedication to public service. NMA applauds Chairman Combest for all of his tireless efforts and wishes him well.
MORRIS MOVES TO AMS POULTRY PROGRAMS
Dr. Craig Morris, Assistant to the Deputy Administrator, Livestock and Seed Program, has been selected to join the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Poultry Programs as its Associate Deputy Administrator. As Livestock and Seed Program Assistant to the Deputy Administrator, Morris was involved in the formulation of current and long-range policies and programs related to domestic and international marketing of livestock and livestock products. Previously, Morris served as the Assistant Vice President of Food Safety for a Midwest beef processor and the Manager of Scientific and Technical Affairs for the American Meat Institute. Morris will join Poultry Programs on December 1, 2002. NMA extends hearty congratulations to Dr. Morris!
FSIS FINAL NOTICE
On November 20, 2002, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a final Notice entitled “FSIS Actions Concerning Suppliers That May Be Associated with E. coli O157:H7 Positive Raw Ground Beef Product.” The final Notice describes the actions that FSIS will take when there is either a presumptive or confirmed E. coli O157:H7 positive on raw ground beef product sampled at a federally inspected establishment, retail facility, or import establishment. The final Notice is similar to the Draft Notice save three significant changes. First, the final Notice instructs Compliance Officers (COs) to provide greater notice to retailers prior to taking samples. It states that COs “are to make an effort to notify the retail facility the day before they plan to collect the sample so the retail facility can prepare to hold the expected sampled lot.” If this is not possible, COs “should try to get to the retail facility as close to the beginning of the grinding operation as possible.” The Notice also instructs COs not to collect product from retail cases. Second, the final Notice gives grinders more time to collect information regarding suppliers when there is a presumptive positive at the grinding establishment. Third, the final Notice provides specific procedures for notifying foreign countries when there is a confirmed positive sample on imported product. If there is a confirmed positive, the District Office will provide the supplier information to FSIS’s Office of International Affairs, which will in turn forward the information to the head of the inspection service in the country where the supplier establishment is located.
Recently the National Meat Association was part of a history-making event. The Helsinki Women Business Leaders Summit (HWBLS) was held in Washington DC from November 13th – 15th. This was the second half of a program where fifty of the nation’s top women business leaders traveled to Helsinki to develop mentoring relationships with 50 leading entrepreneurs in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia and Finland. Just as the American women shadowed their business counterparts in Europe, the European women came to America to shadow their partners here. The USDA was contacted by the organizers of this event when they were looking for a partner for a woman from a meat packing business in Lithuania. NMA arranged for Egidija Vaicekauskas to meet with Kathi Mosle of Saag’s Products, Teresa Lincoln of Del Monte Capital, and Nancy Oakes of Boulevard Restaurant. Mrs. Egidija Vaicekauskas of Lithuania toured multiple plants. The end of the summit was a two-day conference of events in DC.
Shawna Thomas, NMA Government Relations Liaison, accompanied Egidija in Washington. This program, headed by Ambassador to Finland Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, was targeted at accomplished businesswomen. Shawna, a young career woman in the political world, said, “I was excited to be able to interact, not only with successful American women, but women who have accomplished amazing things when faced with roadblocks that I can’t even begin to imagine. War isn’t a distant memory or abstract concept for them - it’s real. Women here have changed a great deal in the business infrastructure but have a lot more to accomplish. Many of the women I met this past week have the same problems American women business leaders have combined with living in a part of the world that has only recently emerged from the harsh climate of 50 years of the Cold War.”
The agenda included panel discussions about whether children were an obstacle to success, the attitudes of American girls towards careers in business, international trade policy, networking and more. The panels were accompanied by receptions at the state department and Lithuanian embassy, dinner at the Finnish embassy and an hour-long speech from President Bush at the Old Executive Office Building.
The organizers of the HWBLS contacted the USDA when looking for a woman in the meat industry for the woman from Lithuania to shadow. Rosemary’s name immediately came up because she is respected and well known in a male-dominated field and she was pleased to help with the introductions and host Egidija in California.
LISTERIA SUMMIT MEETINGS
from Shawna Thomas, NMA Government Affairs Liaison, Washington D.C.
Last Monday the USDA/FSIS held a day-long summit on Listeria and introduced a draft directive that outlines “additional steps to be taken by USDA inspectors to ensure that establishments producing ready-to-eat (RTE) meat and poultry products are taking the necessary steps to prevent contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Representatives from the government, industry and consumer groups were in attendance to discuss and learn more about this new directive as well as Lm and its linked illness, listeriosis. Each side of the meat industry had its chance to present their findings followed by a well-planned question and answer period following each presentation.
The last section of the summit was entitled Stakeholder Perspectives. It included presentations that represented the consumer, academia, and industry. Dr. Alice Johnson, president of the National Turkey Federation spoke on behalf of the industry. Dr. Sophia Kathariou, an associate professor of Food Science at North Carolina State University spoke on behalf of Academia. Ms. Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and a variety of people from Safe Tables our Priority (STOP) spoke on behalf of the consumer.
STOP divided its 20 minutes between 3 people who have lost their children, or have severely disabled children because of listeriosis. Each told the group their personal stories of loss and tragedy at the hand of a food-borne illness. Dan Capriotti, a member of the STOP board, as well as a parent affected by listeriosis, summed their collective point up by saying, “The human aspect of the policies we debate can not be ignored.”
He’s right. They have the right to include and debate the human aspects of what they are fighting for and against, but so does the industry. The truth of the matter is while some changes in USDA policy and law are science-based and helpful, others hurt the industry, especially the small business owners, without truly benefiting the public. When the industry mobilizes its forces against a new directive or initiative, it is not some great desire to be evil, usually it is because in reality the many intelligent people who permeate the meat industry cannot figure out a way to turn the lofty directives into a workable reality. Companies often do not have enough money or technological solutions to do something that may actually benefit the public.
In the current questionable economic climate, small businesses are in a precarious situation. However, these same businesses take their responsibility to produce safe and wholesome food very seriously. Their families also eat the products they make, and they have every reason to ensure their safety given the constraints of today’s technology. Contact Kiran Kernellu at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected] for a copy of the Olsson, Frank & Weeda meeting memo.