NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
May 20, 2002
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) awarded a grant to the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Texas A&M University and the International HACCP Alliance to train 75 new Consumer Safety Officers (CSO). This is the second such grant that these organizations have received for this important educational program.
The first class will start at the beginning of June, and the contract includes an option to extend the program up to three classes of CSOs per year for the next five years. The goal of the educational programs is to provide consumer safety officers a thorough understanding of the scientific and technical issues related to food safety along with regulatory and enforcement requirements.
Dr. Barbara Masters, assistant deputy administrator for district inspection operations, FSIS, said the CSO position will continue to focus on the execution of safety programs such as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) at federally-inspected meat and poultry plants. To date, FSIS has been very pleased with the progress of the first group of CSOs, and looks forward to the addition of more CSOs to the workforce.
“While our inspectors have a very important role, they are technical persons focused on execution of plant programs such as HACCP and SSOP. The consumer safety officer is a professional position, and they have the responsibility for looking at the design and interactions of plant food safety systems,” Masters said. “In other words, the inspectors look at how the plant is doing its food safety programs, and the consumer safety officers will determine whether it’s the right thing to be doing.”
“The International HACCP Alliance, in cooperation with the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University, is delighted to have an opportunity to work, once again, with USDA/FSIS to conduct the CSO training in a timely and effective manner. We are committed to the success of the educational program and the individuals,” said Dr. Kerri B. Harris, executive director, International HACCP Alliance. “We will build on our experience from the first class of CSOs to provide the best educational experiences possible for these individuals.”
To be considered for the educational program, CSO candidates must have at least 30 semester hours of related science course work, and those without a bachelor’s degree must have one year of specialized experience. The educational background and job experience requirements provide a basis for making scientific assessment of processes and systems in federally inspected facilities.
Presently, there are thirty-three consumer safety officers in the field who were trained at Texas A&M in October 2001. More information on the CSO position and job description is available on the FSIS website at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/background/cso.htm.
McDonald’s USA has always used U.S. product. So, when the chain announced it would be using imported product in about 400 of its 13,000 U.S. restaurants there was great consternation and gnashing of teeth. The testing began in the Southeast with patties made using Australian and New Zealand product. McDonald’s cites shortages of domestic 90/10 lean beef trimmings needed to make the proper lean/fat ratio, as well as increased competition in the increasingly impacted U.S. fast food marketplace, as the reason for the test. Producers say they are not happy.
“Anytime you have a major company that’s in the past used 100% American born and raised beef products say they’re going to test market this other beef … that’s not good,” Nebraska Farmer’s Union President John Hansen told the Associated Press. “There’s a legitimate frustration over this situation.” Meanwhile, the Nebraska Cattlemen are presenting McDonald’s with research from a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study of underutilized cuts and the Kansas Beef Council and Kansas Livestock Association have contacted McDonalds to urge them to work with the U.S. industry to find domestic alternatives. Most controversially, the Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) and Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) have leveraged recent debate about foreign inspections to unilaterally criticize imported beef product.
Questions about the safety of imported product were first raised by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) in 2000. Although the GAO found no evidence that the USDA’s policies had allowed unwholesome meat to enter the U.S., they did report an apparent disconnect between policy and practice and concluded that the Agency was failing to fully enforce its rules. USDA for its part pointed out in February of this year that imported meat is actually inspected more times than U.S. product, once in the host country and again at the border. “It’s inspected once, twice – sometimes even three times, since a great majority of the meat goes on for further processing in USDA-inspected establishments in the United States,” John C. Prucha, a USDA/FSIS veterinarian, told the Washington Post. In March, Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elsa Murano assured Congress that FSIS was toughening oversight for imported meat. Furthermore, it has never been suggested that either New Zealand or Australia were among the countries having difficulty meeting U.S. beef standards. Generally countries of concern have been developing nations lacking funds for new technologies and inspection programs.
Upset by the LMA/R-CALF statements, Meat New Zealand sent an open letter to the media defending imported products. “We can only assume that these domestic organizations, which seek to influence public and political opinion, are grossly uninformed,” wrote Andrew Burtt of Meat New Zealand. “We consider that the American consumer is best served by a balanced view of these claims.” The statement contained New Zealand’s impressive list of food safety assurances, including HACCP, disease surveillance programs, product certifications and residue prevention strategies. (For information on how McDonald’s decision to buy imported product might impact the market see page 3).
Dateline NBC is planning to publicize the results of a 5-month-long hidden camera investigation looking at seven of the nation’s largest grocery chains. The purpose of the investigation was to discover if some of their stores are secretly changing the expiration dates on packages of fresh meat in order to lengthen their shelf life. According to Dateline’s website the episode, called “The Dating Game,” will air tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21 at 10:00pm ET.
Emphasizing that ‘this is a test, this is only a test,’ McDonalds has said that its decision to provisionally import product will not mean an increase of overall Australian beef imports. Such imports are capped by an annual quota of 378,214 metric tons. They reached that quota for the first time last year, but the quota has not been increased for this year. “McDonald’s will not support or sponsor an increase in the quota,” John Hays, head purchaser of U.S. beef for the fast food chain, told the Kansas Beef Council. However, Sharon McGovern, the North American market analyst for Meat & Livestock Australia Ltd., told Dow Jones Business News that any increase in demand for Australian beef will likely mean that the 2002 quota will be filled earlier than it was in 2001. “It’s great to have McDonald’s but it’s also our existing customers that are really starting to worry how it’s going to affect them,” she said. Any increase in demand could limit the current discount level on Australian product, closing the price gap between Australian and domestic product.
Australia is making efforts to remove the U.S. quota on its products. ABC News reports that Australian beef exports are currently down 20% overall, with exports to Japan down by half after that country’s Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) scare.
Salmonella DROPS WITH EGG FARMERS’ EFFORTS
Ten states that started voluntary egg-safety programs in the 1990s saw cases of Salmonella fall by 22% in the first few years after the standards were implemented, according to recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data. The voluntary standards require that farms comply with a variety of sanitation and testing standards. Robert Tauxe, the oft-quoted chief of the CDC’s foodborne disease branch, said the study shows sanitation and testing standards for farms could cut down on food poisonings, not only in eggs but in other products as well. According to the Associated Press, the Bush administration is considering mandatory national standards that would require FDA testing of chicken houses.
SAFEWAY TO AUDIT MEAT SUPPLIERS, CREDITS PETA
Safeway announced that, after seeing a PETA video recording taken inside its largest pork supplier, it will now adopt new humane handling guidelines. “I think we will give PETA some credit for alerting us to some issues related to some suppliers,” Safeway Vice President Brian Dowling told KPIX-TV. The announcement caused a PETA protest against Safeway to shift into a victory celebration. Safeway’s new guidelines will be released this summer and the company says the abuses shown in the PETA tape have already been stopped.
According to an article in May 16's New York Times the lines have sharpened over the last few months in what may prove to be a culture war for the new century. “The battlefield is the American diet, particularly that of the nation's teenagers,” says the Times. The two biggest states, Texas and California, as well as many school districts in other states, may soon be phasing out junk food in schools. Lawyers who pioneered suits against tobacco companies now target what they call Big Food and Congress is considering legislation, the Obesity Prevention and Treatment Act, to improve the eating habits in the nation.
The experience in Oakland, which in February removed soda, candy, caffeinated drinks and other products from schools in the 52,000-student district, may be predictive of events to come. The district food service manager, Amy Lins, says students are now eating things like soy-based burgers, salads and grilled chicken and drinking fruit juices. “But more kids may be sneaking off to get their junk food off campus,” said Lins.
John Doyle of the Center for Consumer Freedom, the food industry group leading the fight against the lawsuits and the bans on junk food, told the Times that the Oakland junk food ban was the most extreme in the nation and would not help children eat more healthful food. “They can eliminate everything they want, and it will not do one thing to curb obesity,” he said. “You cannot mandate fat away. “Furthermore, many schools depend on income from snack sales.
John F. Banzhaf, a professor of law at George Washington University warned that, with the Internal Revenue Service recognizing obesity as an illness and a recent surgeon general’s report warning that obesity has reached epidemic levels, the stage is set to declare foods that contribute to the problem a threat. “It's a reach, I admit. But they said the same thing about tobacco lawsuits 10 years ago,” he said.
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 Jeremy Russell
May 20, 2002
GLOBAL HACCP CONFERENCE
The first Global HACCP Conference was held last week in Chicago. Dr. H. Russell Cross, who helped found the International HACCP Alliance and acted as its first executive director, welcomed attendees. He thanked NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow for NMA's vision as a founding member of the HACCP Alliance, as well as its continued leadership and support of the Alliance.
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Merle Pierson, addressing an international audience attending the Conference, highlighted USDA’s five main public health goals. FSIS plans to expand biosecurity programs, improve the management of agency programs through employee training, streamline inter-agency communications, develop new programs in farm-to-table, food safety education programs, and “base policy decisions on scientific data and risk assessments.” As part of achieving these goals, FSIS has begun the realignment of FSIS District Offices from 17 to 15 offices. Dr. Pierson also announced FSIS immediate plans to focus more extensively on prerequisite programs as a foundation for HACCP. The Agency would like industry to pay more attention to validation and verification of existing HACCP plans.
Many conference speakers – including Dr. Daniel Engeljohn, Director of Regulations and Directive Development Staff, Office of Policy, Program Development and Evaluation, FSIS; Dr. Don Zink, Food Safety Consultant; and Dr. Dane Bernard, V.P. of Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Keystone Foods – emphasized the need for prerequisite programs. They called for more complete HACCP plan and CCP validation documentation.
The International HACCP Alliance was founded on March 25, 1994, as a proactive step to assist the meat and poultry industry prepare for HACCP. The founders recognized the need for uniform HACCP education and implementation and have worked consistently maintaining these standards.
NMA SPEAKS TO SPARKS
NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow was invited to speak at the Sparks Spring Conference & Industry Overview, Memphis, TN on May 16. Her talk covered packer ownership, contracting and price discovery. “It’s time for thoughtful leaders to begin discussions about what is needed, for the diverse interests to talk about how, as an industry, we can move to value-based information,” she told the assembled. “Price once was what the live market traded at. With so many changes in the meat industry, we need to work together to plan for the future of how to exchange honest information so that everyone can be a winner.” The complete text of her comments are available by e-mail at [email protected] or send a self-addressed, stamped (34¢) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request.
The Wisconsin Circuit Court for Milwaukee County dismissed on May 16 several lawsuits filed against Excel Corporation in connection with a foodborne outbreak attributed to a restaurant. The Circuit Court held that because intact beef cuts are not adulterated under federal law, even if contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) expressly preempts a state ruling that these products are adulterated, either legislatively or by a court decision. The Court stated that it is USDA’s job to determine when meat is “safe, wholesome and not adulterated” and to ensure compliance with a comprehensive, in-plant inspection program. “These [national] standards protect the meat processors also, so that they know what is expected of them in regard to their products that are distributed among the many states. In an area of such great national concern, it is essential that the rules be uniform.” The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ assertion that Excel had somehow contracted away its right to rely on federal preemption.
FSIS began on May 6 a survey to gather information on dioxin in U.S. meat and poultry products. Data from the survey will be used to determine whether the amount of dioxin present in meat and poultry remains low or whether steps need to be taken to further reduce dioxin. NMA recommends that if you have your product sampled during this survey, you hold the product. If levels are found to be high, it is possible the samples could result in a recall of product
Dioxins are a group of compounds that are found in the environment all over the world. Released through natural processes, such as forest fires, as well as industrial manufacturing, these chemicals can accumulate in the fat of an animal and become toxic at high levels. In the mid-1990s FSIS and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performed a survey that determined that the majority of results were within the normal range. This new survey is the first of what FSIS decided to make a routine periodic follow-up to the 1990’s survey. A total of 500 fat samples will be taken at slaughter, 136 from market cattle, 144 from young chickens, 136 from market hogs, and 84 from young turkeys.
According to a story from MeatNews.com, the U.S. Department of Labor has decided to take Tyson Foods to court over payments for the time employees spend putting on or taking off their work clothes. In a statement, Tyson pointed out that “the position taken by the Department of Labor is clearly contradicted by three recent federal court decisions and over 50 years of industry practice sanctioned by the Department of Labor.”
The recently passed Farm Bill includes a nonrecourse marketing assistance loan program for wool and mohair, marking the first time a Farm Bill has included such a program for wool, reports the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). Producers who have already marketed their 2002 wool clip or will market it before the program is announced in the fall should keep their sales receipts, indicating pounds sold and sales dates, in order to be eligible for the program.
FSIS PERSONNEL CHANGES
It was announced last week that Assistant Administrator for Staff Services Linda Swacina was named to Associate Administrator; she will work in an acting capacity until her paperwork is final. Additionally, William Smith has been appointed as Deputy Administrator for Field Operations. He has served in an acting capacity in that role for several months.