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 Jeremy Russell

April 1, 2002




Following up research by Nobel Prize-winner Stanley Prusiner, French government scientists announced that they had failed to find any evidence of infectious prions when they looked for them in muscles from several BSE or scrapie-infected animals including mice, sheep, goats and cows. Whereas Prusiner’s team claims to have found prions in the hind leg muscles of mice whose brains had been injected with BSE-like prions, the French team’s “tests proved negative in the search for pathological prions in the set of samples, including those taken from the hind limb muscles,” says the AFSSA, France’s food safety watchdog. New Scientist reports that, reassuringly, tests on peripheral nerves and lymphoid tissue in the cow also came up negative, suggesting that meat will be safe even if it contains this type of tissue. “These observations are consistent with the findings made to date concerning the distribution of the infectivity linked to BSE in cows,” say the researchers.


The significance of Prusiner’s results has also been questioned in Britain. Peter Smith, chairman of the government’s Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, told New Scientist that a much more significant experiment had been under way for five years in Britain, and had yet to give any cause for concern. Instead of using a surrogate animal like the mouse, this experiment is focusing on which cattle tissues can transmit BSE to other cattle. Scientists at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, Surrey, injected the brains of live calves with liquidized tissue from various parts of the bodies of BSE-infected cows. “None injected with muscle have gone down yet,” says Smith. “But if you inject BSE-infected brain tissue, the calves come down with BSE in about two years, as expected,” he says.


“If there is infectivity in muscle, it must be at a much lower level than in other tissue, particularly that from the brain or central nervous system,” says Smith. You can never prove a negative, he adds, but the results so far have been reassuring.




The International HACCP Alliance will be hosting a Global HACCP Conference May 15-17 in Chicago, IL. It is currently inviting participants and sponsors to take part. Participants with at least one full conference registration or one complimentary registration may choose to exhibit at the Conference. Sponsorship opportunities show your commitment to excellence in food safety. You may send a self-addressed, stamped (34¢) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West for more information or visit the International HACCP Alliance website at


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To prevent the introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which recently has been detected in eight states in either captive elk herds and/or free-ranging or farm-raised white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer and mule deer, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) have issued separate orders that suspend the importation of those animals. “After consulting with industry, our agencies agreed that we should exercise extreme caution now and stop the importation of these susceptible species of deer and elk from all states, rather than regret it later,” said Dr. Linda Logan, Texas’ state veterinarian and executive director of TAHC.


CWD was first seen in captive mule deer in l967 at the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s research facilities in Fort Collins. Since then, it has been detected in free-ranging deer in Colorado, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Wyoming and South Dakota. The disease has also been found in captive elk or deer facilities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota. Both free-ranging deer and captive elk herds in Saskatchewan, Canada, also have been affected. A Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE), triggered by abnormal prions in the brain, CWD is confirmed through microscopic examination of brain tissue. Dr. Logan said infected animals may incubate the disease for three years or longer before they exhibit clinical signs that include drooling, excessive thirst, dramatic loss of weight and body condition, poor hair coat, staggering, and finally death.


Dr. Logan said researchers do not completely understand how the disease is spread but suspect that the infectious agent may be shed in urine, saliva or fluids associated with calving. Because there is no live animal test, and because CWD is a chronic disease that develops slowly over months or years, herds must be monitored for at least five years before they are considered “free” of CWD. The TAHC offers a voluntary CWD monitoring program in Texas.


In Wisconsin, where deer hunting and processing is a $1.5 billion-a-year industry, officials are looking for ways for cutting the sick animals from the herd and assuring that they don’t reach the consumer. State Agriculture Department officials are not sure what steps they may take and are waiting for the results of a special deer hunt, but whatever actions they will take should be in place by fall 2002. They are looking to other states for appropriate measures. One problem they face is the prospect of a growing deer population if hunters lose interest in the animals. The deer already cause extensive ecological damage and nearly 46,000 road accidents a year in the state.


Connecticut already prohibits the entry of any elk or deer, while North Carolina animal health officials prohibit the entry of deer or elk from counties (and contiguous counties) where CWD has been diagnosed. Missouri prohibits the entry of deer and elk that have been in any CWD endemic area within the previous five years. Colorado requires mandatory surveillance of all elk mortalities, whether they are natural deaths, slaughter, or hunt park kills. Utah has mandatory testing and prohibits the importation of any elk from herds exposed to or positive for CWD.


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TESTING FOR E. coli O157:H7


Scientists with the USDA tested samples of raw ground beef taken from government-inspected testing facilities as well as grocery stores around the country and presented the results at the 2002 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia. The government’s testing program for E. coli O157:H7 in raw ground beef has shown, despite an increase in positive samples, that less than 1% of samples test positive. From 1995-2000, 47 of 16,366 samples (0.29%) taken from federal inspection sites tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 while 19 of 7,885 samples (0.24%) taken from grocery stores contained the bacteria. The number of infected samples rose steadily over that 5-year period as well, increasing from a 0.08% infection rate in 1995 to 0.50% in 2000 for government facilities and 0.07% in 1995 to 0.86% in 2000 for retail outlets. According to lead researcher Kathy Orloski, progressive increases in the appearance of E. coli O157:H7 are due to improvements in testing methods more than anything else. “Certainly a large part of it is increased test sensitivity,” she told Reuters. “When you consider the size of each sample increased, the number of samples went up and the methodology changed over that 5-year period, it is not surprising to see that the measured prevalence increased.”




A shocking expose in the New York Times alleges that thousands of Brazilians are forced into slave labor on farms and cattle ranches in the Brazilian back jungle. Brazil, which shipped 50,376 tons of beef and veal to the U.S. in 1999, up from 33,534 tons in 1998, has the largest commercial cattle herd in the world and exports of Brazilian beef, fresh and processed, grew 30% in 2001, to $1 billion, according to government statistics. However, the slave labor situation is bad enough that Brazil Labor Ministry has a special antislavery Mobile Enforcement Team, which freed more than 1,400 slaves last year alone and acknowledges that there may be many more undetected cases.


Former slave laborers describe living and working conditions as abysmal. Gomes de Silva, who was forced to work without pay on a 48,000-head cattle ranch, described spraying chemicals without protective gear and eating rotten meat. “The cattle were treated better than we were, since they were at least fattened up in buildings with concrete floors, while we had to sleep in out in the jungle,” he said. Some men died of starvation or were killed by the armed guards.


An article in today’s Wall Street Journal paints a very different picture of Brazil’s Beef industry, however. These days, the article says, most U.S. TV dinners contain Brazilian Beef. “In an era of mad-cow disease and cholesterol-consciousness, Brazil’s white, hump-backed zebu cows – a short-haired breed that thrives in hot climates – are gaining popularity. They are grass-fed, hormone-free and yield beef that is leaner than that of Argentine, Europe and the U.S. – although some argue it isn’t as tasty,” writes WSJ Staff Reporter Miriam Jordan. The piece doesn’t say anything specific about Brazils labor issues, but does point out that “aware of the demands of overseas markets, the Brazilian government enforces rigid quality control. Every export facility has on-site federal inspectors.”


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Charles Gioglio, Director, Meat and Poultry Advisory Committee Staff, will attend NMA’s Process Validation Seminar, in San Francisco, California on April 25 and 26. Gioglio will be available at the session to answer questions on HACCP Plan Validation and to speak on the forthcoming FSIS Policy Notice and Guidelines for HACCP Plan Validation. NMA is co-sponsoring this event with Southwest Meat Association and the AMI Foundation. For registration information please contact NMA at 510-763-1533.




Researchers now theorize that a neurological disease that once devastated the native people of Guam was spread through bat meat. The bats, before they were hunted to near extinction, apparently were feasting on plants that contain a neurotoxin. It is now believed that the toxin transferred through the meat to humans causing a disease that combined symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. When the country started to import its bat meat, incidence of the disease declined sharply. Ethnobotonist Paul Alan Cox argues that a process of biomagnification caused the toxin from the cycad plants to transfer to humans the way mercury does via fish or PCBs through whale meat. It’s a difficult theory to prove, however, because so few bats remain uneaten in Guam.




USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will host its Annual Vendor Conference May 2 at the Holiday Inn KCI in Kansas City, MI. Topics of discussion will include specification updates, certification issues, and other purchase program initiatives. Starting July 1, 2002, AMS will only accept bids submitted through the Domestic Electronic Bid Entry System (DEBES). Informational sessions on submission of bids through DEBES will be provided at the Industry Conference. Shuttle service is available from the airport. Lodging is approximately $90 per night. A breakfast buffet will be available in the hotel restaurant. Participants must make their own lodging arrangements. Pre-registration for the conference is requested. If you would like additional information, please call Sue Olson or Dorothy Borja on (202) 720-2650. NMA will host its usual reception for attendees the evening before the event.



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 Jeremy Russell

April 1, 2002




In a surprise turn-around, Russia yesterday agreed to lift its ban on American poultry before April 10, thus ending a three-week hiatus in exports. The U.S. will take steps before that date to assure Russia that its inspection system is satisfactory. Concerns cited include the use of antibiotics and chemicals by farmers and Salmonella is a primary issue. However, “the rationale for the ban seemed to shift from one day to the next,” commented American Ambassador Alexander Vershbow. “We believe that, in many respects, they’ve exaggerated the health risks. We heard no cases where American poultry products have caused any harm to the Russian consumer.”




For the first time, McDonald’s Corp. is considering the use of imported beef in its U.S. franchises. According to today’s Cattle Buyers Weekly it began testing the idea at restaurants in the Southeast. The patties are being made with beef from Australia and New Zealand. The company says that declining supplies of U.S. beef have driven its decision. If the switchover becomes permanent, all McDonald’s grinders may be using imported beef by the end of July.


All of McDonald’s major competitors already use imported beef and, worldwide, McDonald’s is already the largest user of Australian beef. For years McDonald’s USA has used only U.S. beef, but this policy has it at an ever-widening disadvantage it says it can no longer be ignored.




On Friday, March 29, 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its opinion in AFL-CIO v. Veneman upholding the legality of FSIS’s HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), as modified in light of the earlier Court of Appeals' decision.  However, the Court of Appeals was careful to note that “if the USDA undertakes a rulemaking to adopt as a permanent change something along the lines of the modified program, experience with the program's operation and its effectiveness will doubtless play a significant role. For this and other reasons, our opinion today may not necessarily foreshadow the outcome of judicial review of such future regulations.”




During the recent House and Senate agriculture appropriations hearings, Dr. Elsa Murano, Under Secretary for Food Safety, testified that FSIS will hold nine public meetings over the next year. The public meetings will be on the following topics:


1.   Applied Epidemiology and Other Vital Public Health Tools to Inform Food Safety Actions (Held Jan. 29, 2002, Atlanta, GA)

2.   Pathogen Reduction Symposium (Tentative Date – May 2002, Philadelphia, PA)

3.   Puerto Rico Conference on Animal and Egg Production Food Safety (July 9-11, 2002, San Juan, Puerto Rico)

4.   Food Safety Education Symposium -”Thinking Globally – Working Locally” (Sept. 18, 2002, Orlando, FL)

5.   Improving the Recall Process (Tentative Date – Nov. 2002)

6.   International Food Safety Issues (Tentative Date – Jan. 2003, Orlando, FL)

7.   Risk Assessment Symposium/Public Meeting (Tentative Date – Winter/Spring 2003, TBD)

8.   Follow-up to Applied Epidemiology Public Meeting held in Jan. 2002 (Tentative Date –  March 2003, TBD)

9.   Meeting on National Academy of Sciences Report (Tentative Date – May 2003, TBD)


Additional information about each meeting will be announced as details are finalized.


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Agriculture industry representatives gathered at the Midwest Conference on Agriculture Bioterrorism March 25 to discuss the nation’s food supply. The Conference was scheduled in response to the September 11 attacks. Coming just two weeks after the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) scare that lowered commodity prices and cost producers some $50-million, attendees predicted that a real FMD outbreak could be economically devastating. Kansas State University Professor of Meat Science James Marsden told the assembled that just one case of FMD could cause irreparable harm to the nation’s agriculture industry, reported the Associated Press. “It would be a depression of the first order,” he said.


The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) meanwhile has launched an investigation into the March 13 drop in cattle futures caused by rumors of FMD. Cattle Buyers Weekly reports that CFTC began a fact-finding review of trading activity at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) the day after the rumors led to several contracts declining sharply. The Commission has received several requests for an investigation. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) cites sources saying that traders who were short in the market theoretically could have made about $2 million if they held the maximum of 3300 cattle futures contracts.




The Associated Press reported March 21 that USDA plans to strip Texas of its tuberculosis-free status. Excluding a few dairy herds around El Paso, Texas cattle have been tuberculosis-free since November 2000. It is a valuable designation and its loss could cost millions.  In the past year there have been high levels of tuberculosis infection and the USDA vet in charge of Texas said that within 60 days the Agency will publish an interim rule requiring TB testing of breeding cattle being shipped out of state. “We know the impact is going to be huge,” said Ross Wilson, vice president of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association in Amarillo.  “We’re at the point of discussing, how do we minimize this?”




The Jobs Creation and Workers Assistance Act of 2002 enacted March 9 includes provisions retroactive to September 2001. Because of the retroactive provisions, the IRS will be issuing several revised forms, instructions, and publications for the last tax year. IRS has suggested filing extensions for returns that are likely to be affected. For a list of forms that may change and other information, send a self-addressed, stamped (34¢) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request.




Research reported in New Science magazine suggests that there could be a way to manufacture meat without livestock. Chunks of goldfish muscle grew about 15% after a week immersed in a nutrient-enriched liquid extracted from the blood of unborn calves. Eventually, the researchers hope to improve the growth rate and expand the technique for growing chicken and beef. The team also hopes to create a meat-growing machine to automate the process by pumping in the right amount of oxygen, pumping out carbon dioxide and cellular wastes and continually “feeding” the meat with fresh nutrient solution. Thus is could be harvested and would continue to grow. “This could save you having to slaughter animals for food,” said project leader Morris Benjaminson. Meat-making units might be helpful in isolated places where raising animals is difficult to impossible. However, the process is a long way from being completed and would require federal approval before being used for consumables.