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

May 12, 2003




NMA reported last week that Nebraska Beef, Ltd. filed two Complaints in the U. S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. The first alleges Breach of Contract by USDA (the Consent Decision of January 27, 2003), Violation of Plaintiff’s Right to Due Process, and Action in contravention to USDA’s statutory authority. It seeks injunctive relief.  The other suit filed against five named USDA officials, and four not named, alleges they have knowingly and/or recklessly violated the Plaintiff’s Constitutional rights, and have conspired and/or agreed to violate Plaintiff’s rights to due process.  This latter type of complaint is known as a “Bivens” lawsuit. Both Actions request a jury trial.


Nebraska Beef, Ltd. initiated the legal actions after receiving and responding to an almost unprecedented letter from the Director of the Evaluation & Enforcement Division, Program Evaluation, Enforcement and Review (PEER) requiring it to show cause of an alleged critical limit deviation.


At NMA press time, no date had been set for a hearing in the Court. 




NMA has expressed its concern about the organizational structure of the Office of Field Operations (OFO) at FSIS repeatedly since the major reorganization in 1996 that eliminated five regional offices, and established 18 district offices, since reduced to fifteen.  In our view, the span of supervisory control for the Deputy Administrator for OFO was too broad to be effective. Bill Smith, the current Deputy Administrator of OFO, has tried a couple of adjustments to address this problem.  OFO is trying to use an informal assignment of staff positions in Washington that report to the Deputy Administrator for various Districts.  Those assignments are:


            Dr. Ken Petersen       Dr. John Prucha          Judy Riggins               Jeanne Axtel                                      Atlanta                         Albany                          Alameda                       Beltsville

            Jackson                        Madison                        Boulder                         Dallas

            Lawrence                     Minneapolis                   Chicago                        Des Moines

            Springdale                     Philadelphia                   Raleigh


The other major problem of concern to NMA and its members is confusion in the reporting lines.  For instance, there are two kinds of Compliance Officers: those who report to Program Evaluation, Enforcement & Review (PEER) and those who report to the District Manager (DM).  Officials who have split responsibilities (i.e. that may report to both PEER and OFO) or officials with the same title but reporting to different line supervisors is very confusing.  Further, there are other officials, including the new Consumer Safety Officers, and IDV teams, who appear to have the ability to initiate regulatory action in establishments separate from the traditional Inspector-in-Charge actions.  When several different officials, all bearing the badge of official USDA take action, industry managers can get confused.  Further, the role of the Technical Center gets diluted with every new field official action. This is unfortunate, since the Tech Center guidance was expected to be a “leveler” to help improve consistency. 


District Managers are meeting with the key officials of OFO in Chicago this week. We hope that some better structural order may be forthcoming. 




NMA has available information on the purchases for Fiscal Year 2003. NMA members contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533 for a copy.


Page 2




The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the analysis of results from nearly 40,000 deer submitted by hunters for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing, which suggests that the disease may be limited to the area around where it was initially detected. Complete results to date are available on the DNR Internet site at


In many areas of Wisconsin, (50 of 56 sampling units) researchers are 90 percent confident or better that CWD would have been detected if only one deer in one hundred was infected. And, enough samples were collected and tested from every area of the state to give a 99 percent confidence that CWD would have been detected if the disease were present at the level found around the Mt. Horeb area.


“Not finding any new cases of CWD outside of the current eradication zone and an adjacent segment of the management zone is good news for Wisconsin,” said Tom Hauge, director of wildlife management at the Department of Natural Resources, in a press release. “We can focus our state’s resources on the affected area, work to increase our knowledge of the disease and limit it’s negative effects. These surveillance results will help us target our disease control efforts for greatest efficiency and cost effectiveness.”


Wisconsin wildlife health and management officials say that while this essentially completes the largest ever wildlife disease surveillance effort, CWD surveillance will continue. “Processes that brought CWD to the Mt. Horeb area could be unfolding elsewhere and continued surveillance is warranted,” says Hauge. “Continued surveillance in fall 2003 will focus on ‘at risk’ areas of the state, such as counties where there are CWD-positive farmed deer or elk, the counties bordering on Illinois near where that state has found CWD, and counties adjacent to the eradication zone. Reports of sick deer anywhere will be investigated and if indicated, the deer will be tested.”


Small numbers of results will continue to be added to the test-reporting website as sick-looking deer are sampled. Carcasses from the eradication zone turned over to the DNR for disposal during hunting season have been in cold storage. Testing completed, positive deer will be sorted out and researchers will harvest additional tissues from positive-testing deer for future research into the disease. The positive carcasses will then be incinerated.




Lean Trimmings and Herd on the Hill are offered electronically. If you’d like to receive the newsletter via e-mail, please contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533. Receive the latest news every Monday afternoon in your inbox instead of waiting for it in the mail!


NMA reports news items that are of special interest to its 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:




An executive summary of the Beef Industry E. coli Summit was published shortly after the January meeting, and can be viewed at under “Research.”  The executive summary was mailed out to NMA general members. NMA members contact Kiran Kernellu at 510-763-1533 or [email protected] to request a copy by mail.




NMA has available two videotapes on animal handling, “Animal Stunning for Stunners,” and “Animal Handling in Meat Plants.” NMA members may purchase these videos at a discounted price. Please contact Julie Ramsey at [email protected] or 510-763-1533 for more information.


Page 3




Many California members have notified the association of their concerns regarding the escalating costs of workers compensation insurance coverage.  A recent Lean Trimmings article stated the impact it had on businesses in California and encouraged members to contact their elected representative to voice their concerns. 


It is important that members know what is going on to cause rates to double, triple or worse.  NMA is scheduling a teleconference for Thursday, May 15, 2003 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. PDT to brief members.  NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow and Bill Bridgford of Bridgford Foods Corp., also the Chairman of the NMA Work Place Issues Committee, will moderate this teleconference with John Barbieri and Kevin Vollmer of State Compensation Insurance Fund as guests.  Interested California members can call the NMA office at 510-763-1533 to get the dial-in number and meeting agenda.  There is no fee to NMA members.




The American Lamb Board will meet again June 4-6 at the Renaissance Denver Hotel, 3801 Quebec Street, in Denver, CO. Agenda topics include the American Lamb Board spring promotion and strategic planning on upcoming summer and fall programs. The Board will also conduct interviews for American Lamb Board Executive Director.


Public comments will be received at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 4th and at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 5th and 6th. Written comments are also welcome. Contact American Lamb Board Secretary Margaret Magruder at 503-728-2945 for more information.




The National Institute for Animal Agriculture Weekly News Bulletin recently reported that requiring producers to maintain records when USDA’s country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law is implemented is not prohibited under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA), nor is conducting audits of the records packers will require, according to GIPSA. If a packer’s record keeping requirements are reasonable in light of the mandatory COOL program and if the packer fully discloses the record keeping requirements to the seller prior to purchasing livestock, the packer has not violated the PSA, GIPSA said. GIPSA acknowledged in a memo that packers might have to develop different practices to address the record keeping requirements needed to fulfill their COOL duties when the law takes effect. GIPSA also acknowledged that packers might have to institute different processing methods to achieve compliance. Visit for more information.


May 28-29 - Beyond Basics -- College Station, TX

July (tentative) - Animal Handling -- Dallas, TX

July 17-18 - Advanced HACCP -- Los Angeles, CA

August 21-23 - Basic HACCP in Spanish -- Los Angeles, CA

September 18-20 - Basic HACCP -- San Francisco, CA

October 1-2 - Beyond Basics  -- College Station, TX

Contact NMA at (510) 763-1533 for more information and registration materials.


Audio tapes of the interactive roundtable seminars at NMA’s 57th Annual Convention are now available! Don’t miss out on the thought-provoking and challenging questions and answers from experts and attendees during these twelve sessions: Preventing H7; What Works; Making RTE Products Safe; Sampling & Testing Methods; The Workplace Q&A; Industry Consolidation; Security: Business & Industry; Managing the Paper Trail; Standards for HACCP Validation; Industry-Government Working Together; COOL or NOT COOL! & Nutrition; Telling the Meat Industry Story; and Moving Forward with Branded Meats. Contact NMA at [email protected] or 510-763-1533 to request an order form.




The 5th International Symposium on the Epidemiology and Control of Foodborne Pathogens in Pork will be held October 1-4, 2003 in Crete, Greece. Safe Pork intends to provide an international scientific and technical forum for advanced information on the following: Microbial ecology (preharvest /postharvest), Animal handling, Animal waste, Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, Antimicrobial resistance of foodborne pathogens, Diagnostics, Slaughtering technology/hygiene/decontamination/inspection, Processing and safety, and Intervention measures (specific and integrated systems, regulatory, national, international programs).


Please visit for additional information, including call for papers and registration. NMA members contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533 for a brochure about this event.


Page 4



FSIS is providing training to improve and reinforce inspectors’ understanding of how to perform their food safety duties. The training course, “Food Safety Regulatory Essentials Training,” (FSRE) is based on recently issued FSIS Directive 5000.1, Revision 1, “Verifying an Establishment’s Food Safety System.” The directive outlines the full range of inspection responsibilities in relation to the HACCP/Pathogen Reduction regulation. It also incorporates all recent Agency issuances (Directives, notices) related to these topics.  For more information visit




The National Chicken Council Washington Report relayed that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has expanded the exotic Newcastle disease (END) quarantine in California to include the southeast corner of Kern County. The action followed the confirmation of END in a backyard flock near the town of Mojave. Both the premises and contact premise have been depopulated.


The numbers of positive commercial flocks in California is still at 22 flocks. As of May 7th, 15 premises were pending depopulation and 2,208 premises were released from quarantine. In Texas, there were no new positive or contact premises, and APHIS has completed its operations in Arizona and Nevada.



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

May 12, 2003




On Thursday, May 8 Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman testified on behalf of the Department before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies, which held a hearing on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 budget request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The Secretary was accompanied by Mr. James R. Moseley, Deputy Secretary, Mr. Keith Collins, Chief Economist for USDA, and Mr. Stephen Dewhurst, Office of Budget and Program Analysis for USDA.  Subcommittee Chairman Robert Bennett (R-UT) presided over the hearing, which also included members Senator Herb Kohl, the Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, and Senators Specter (R-PA), Durbin (D-IL), Stevens (R-AK), Cochran (R-MS), Burns (R-MT), Johnson (D-SD), Craig (R-ID), Harkin (D-IA), Byrd (D-WV), and Dorgan (D-ND).


Opening statements from Chairman Bennett included an acknowledgment that this year’s appropriations process is more difficult than most, partly due to the President’s release of the FY 2004 budget request before Congress completed action on the 2003 budget.  Senator Burns briefly expressed a concern about the recent reduction of USDA staff.  Secretary Veneman identified her priorities in the budget, namely protecting the food supply, implementing the 2002 Farm Bill, and supporting healthy lifestyles.  Secretary Veneman expressed her support for the child nutrition reauthorization process, and endorsed the concept of providing incentives for schools to offer more nutritious food choices.


Senator Johnson voiced his concerns that USDA, along with the meat processing industry, is attempting to “sand bag” the country-of-origin labeling law.  He accused the Department of drafting regulations that would unnecessarily burden producers with administrative hurdles.  Secretary Veneman responded that the country-of-origin labeling law is very specific, and USDA is working within significant constraints.  She also noted that the law has been voluntary so far, and that parts of the agriculture industry are in favor of keeping it that way.


Senator Durbin discussed his concerns about school food safety.  He said that he would like to mandate schools to issue recalls in the event of illness and to better track food manufacturers that supply school cafeterias.  Secretary Veneman insisted that schools operate appropriately under the current voluntary recall system and that she sees no need to use a heavy-handed system for schools.  The Secretary said USDA should improve its follow-through on product recalls by ensuring that schools heed disposal notices and other warnings. According to the National Chicken Council Washington Report, when asked by Senator Durbin (D-IL) about mandatory recall, the Secretary said mandatory recall is not necessary because FSIS can pull inspection if a plant refuses to recall its product. In regard to USDA-purchased food products, such as those for the School Lunch Program, the Food Nutrition Service has the authority to help if a voluntary recall is not successful. Senator Durbin also asked the Secretary her opinion on a single food agency, and she reportedly responded that the issue is “complicated and that each agency with food safety responsibilities has several roles and varying authorities that make a single agency a major challenge.” The budget request provides a program level of $899 million, which is an increase of almost $42 million from 2003.


NMA members can contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533 for a copy of Secretary Veneman’s testimony and the Olsson, Frank & Weeda memo on the hearing. 


Page 2




USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced additional purchase specification requirements for ground beef items purchased for the National School Lunch and other Federal food and nutrition programs, TRS-GB-2003. The changes are geared toward making AMS’ purchase requirements closer to those of large volume commercial purchasers of ground beef products. The new requirements will take effect this summer for purchases for the upcoming school year. Purchases under TRS-GB-2003 require the submission of technical proposals for approval prior to submissions of cost offers.


AMS officials released the new specifications at the recent Annual Industry Conference for Contractors and Suppliers in USDA’s Meat Purchase Programs in Kansas City, MO. They said that the new specification builds on current requirements by adding state-of-the-art process controls that will measure performance of the processing systems producing both raw and finished products. The new specification provides that finished products will continue to be tested for Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7, with products testing positive being excluded from purchases. Like large volume commercial buyers’ requirements, testing will now be extended to raw materials at slaughter and deboning facilities, including trim, to provide greater assurance of product quality before grinding.


The Agency holds that contractor eligibility to supply ground beef items to USDA will become contingent on good product and plant sanitation practices as measured by ongoing test results. Statistical Process Control (SPC) will be used to evaluate each contractor’s overall process to produce high quality and wholesome ground beef, providing an objective basis for determining any need for improvements in production processes and for excluding companies that do not consistently meet requirements.


Additionally, the new specification sets an average fat content level of 15 percent for ground beef items, but lean ground beef patties will remain at 10 percent, reducing the average fat content of ground beef items purchased by two percentage points.


The previous specification required: 1) an intervention step that is a critical control point (CCP) in a slaughter plant’s HACCP plan; 2) an intervention step at a stand-alone deboning plant; and 3) final product testing for several microorganisms for purposes of accepting or rejecting that product. In addition to E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, tests on boneless beef and finished product will be conducted for standard plate count, and total Coliform. Final product will also be tested for Coagulase Positive Staphylococci. The new specification: 1) adds an intervention step and requires testing for E. coli 0157:H7 at the slaughter plant; 2) adds development of a quality control plan and testing requirements for boneless beef, including use of those results for monitoring the production process for boneless beef; 3) adds development of a quality control plan for grinders, retains finished product testing requirements, and adds use of those testing results to monitor the grinding process.


AMS is providing a workshop in Kansas City, MO on May 22nd from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Kansas City Airport to brief vendors, line by line, on how to write technical proposal to meet the new requirements. Interested participants should complete and submit the Supplier Workshop Registration form by May 15, 2003. For a registration form, agenda, and directions to the meeting location, contact Sue Olson at 202-720-2650. For more information on the new specifications, visit AMS’ website at: The Technical Requirements Schedule-GB 2003 is available at:




AUGUST 20-23, 2003



For more information, contact NMA at 510-763-1533 or [email protected]