NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Kiran Kernellu
May 5, 2003
USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) held a one-day meeting last Tuesday on Using Applied Epidemiology and Other Tools to Protect the Public Health. The meeting was chaired by Philip Derfler, Deputy Administrator of Policy and Program Development. One reporter suggested that the meeting was part of the Agency’s continuing efforts to “frame” itself as a public health regulatory agency. Reportedly, presenters spoke more to process than outcome, and models were described showing how epidemiology is incorporated in the decision-making that leads to recalls when food disease outbreaks occur. In fact, in the second part of the meeting a panel discussion dealt with a mock foodborne disease outbreak.
In the utilization of epidemiology, FSIS works with many other agencies at the federal, state and county levels, gathering data and information that will hopefully lead them to the causative agent. It is a complex process, made even more complex because microbiological testing does not provide quick results, especially matching DNA patterns, and an outbreak may be long finished before the evidence trail is complete. A significant danger is taking a wrong turn in the epidemiological trail, thereby leading to wrong decisions, which subsequent sample results may not support. Once there is buy-in to a line of thinking, it is often extremely difficult to make a change and start again from the point of the wrong decision.
The answers to some of the questions were revealing, but not surprising to an industry that values its reputation. Dr. David Goldman, Acting Director of Human Health Sciences Division, of the Office of Public Health and Science at FSIS answered a loaded question about plant cooperation: “My own experience has been that plants are cooperative; I’ve been on conference calls at all hours.” In answer to another loaded question about whether plants open up their books and are forthcoming, Phil Derfler said that the agency usually makes a request and gets the information. In most instances they get the information without an administrative subpoena. Another question suggested that IICs “fear” an FSA (an in-plant food safety assessment). Charles Gioglio, Director, Inspection and Enforcement Initiatives Staff, said that IICs are free to request a FSA and they should not be something to be feared.
This is a very complicated subject area with many improbabilities and outright unknowns. NMA believes that the agency should develop a White Paper on how they are using epidemiology in tracking foodborne disease outbreaks and report its success, or lack thereof, in doing so.
During COOL Listening Sessions in Austin, TX last week, several attendees, including Southwestern Meat Association (SMA) Director Joe Harris, articulated a preference for voluntary COOL. Most of the attendees’ comments also relayed that “a mandatory program could impose burdensome regulations and undefined costs on packers, processors, and producers, while failing to live up to its intended purpose of informing consumers,” according to an InfoMeat report today. Reportedly, Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) chairman-elect Ernie Morales said that many cattlemen question the intent of mandatory COOL. Mandatory COOL is sure to result in added costs to the production, processing, distribution, and sale of beef. COOL opponents are hesitant to assume such financial burdens without being assured of the purported benefits of COOL. InfoMeat also pointed out “there is insufficient evidence to suggest that consumers will pay a premium for strictly U.S. beef or that they would continue to pay a premium in the future.”
Attendees of the listening session also noted that COOL fails to meet the standard of a consumer information law. “Approximately 80 percent of foreign beef consumed in the U.S. is through food service or processed products,” according to an attendee. These two categories being exempt from COOL means that much of the time, when eating restaurant fare or processed products, foreign beef could continue to be consumed unbeknownst to the consumer. Such a discrepancy negates a consumer’s right to know, and undermines the intent of COOL.
NMA members, we need your participation in a survey to help the processing industry provide data to FSIS that will allow consideration of a change in the adulteration policy on blade tenderized non-intact steaks. FSIS and the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) need the data collected from this survey to determine whether there is a transfer of microorganisms in the process that leads to product adulteration. The risk associated with non-intact steaks, given the time and temperature relationship of cooking, is much different than that of ground beef. Previous research supports this idea. However, the blade tenderization practices described in this survey will give FSIS and NACMCF the data to support their risk-based decisions.
FSIS helped develop the survey and the confidential nature of your data will only be shared in aggregate. No individual data will be maintained, and surveys will be shredded after compiled. The survey does not ask any information that would allow anyone to know who you are. The blade tenderization issue has been in front of our industry for some time and we hope to put it behind us. To do so, we need your help. We urge your participation in this project and look forward to a tremendous response level.
Contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533 for an electronic copy of the survey. If you are a member of more that one of the participating organizations (NMA, AAMP, AMI, NAMP, and SMA) please only fill out one survey per inspected establishment. All responses will be sent to Kansas State University for tabulation and then all forms will be destroyed. The compiled information is to be turned in to FSIS in June. Please return surveys by regular mail, e-mail, or fax no later than May 15th to: Larry Franken, Kansas State University, 210 Call Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506; [email protected]; fax: (785) 532-3295.
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 www.beef.org 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.
NMA member Nebraska Beef, Ltd, a beef slaughterer and processor in Omaha, NE, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska against USDA and specific FSIS inspection personnel on Friday, May 2. The suit claims that FSIS personnel have conducted themselves in ways that would be considered contrary to agency policies. Further any administrative actions by the agency subsequent to being informed about this conduct have been ineffective and/or misdirected.
Specifically, in a January 27, 2003 agreement between the company and the agency, FSIS agreed to return its inspection activities at the plant to the standard of regulatory supervision applied to the rest of the industry. The suit alleges that this has not occurred and the company has incurred damages by reason thereof. The Company has stated that it is reserving further comment pending the presentation of the issues to the court. As of press time, no court date has been set.
NMA member Washington Beef attended the listening session in Pasco, WA. They reported that there were about 500 in attendance, and many individuals were signed up to make comments. It seemed pretty clear to our member that the solution is not within the scope of the administrative agency, but needs a political fix. There were hugely compelling stories by small producers who own livestock that are of an age that they don’t have a chance of knowing their birth location and where they have traveled over five to ten years. Congressman Doc Hastings from the 4th District in Washington made a statement at the commencement of the session in his hometown of Pasco. Major presentations were made by large companies and by the general counsel for the American Meat Institute, Mark Dopp.
UPCOMING NMA SEMINARS
May 28-29 - Beyond Basics
-- College Station, TX
June 12-13/13-14 (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 additional information and registration materials.
ROUNDTABLE SEMINAR TAPES
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.
NAMP is offering its Center of the Plate Training course May 6-8, 2003 at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. The course delivers a basic look at the origins of meat products by demonstrating how carcasses are converted into the portioned items commonly traded in the foodservice business.
The $699 registration fee includes a copy of NAMP’s flagship publications, the Meat Buyers Guide and Poultry Buyers Guide, together a $75 value. Also, continuing education credits are available. To download an agenda and registration information, please go to http://www.namp.com/COP.pdf or contact NAMP at (800) 368-3043.
California has officially lost its status as a bovine tuberculosis-free state. USDA removed California’s bovine TB-free status on April 25 after the chronic lung disease was discovered in two dairy herds in Tulare County last year, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. By removing California’s accredited free bovine tuberculosis status, and downgrading it to modified accredited status, the Agency will require California’s beef and dairy cattle producers to comply with additional regulations and testing requirements for the interstate movement of cattle for a minimum of two years. California Cattlemen’s Legislative Bulletin reported, “This downgrade was triggered by the discovery of three California dairy herds infected with bovine tuberculosis between may 2002 and February 2003.” USDA regulations say that if two or more herds are found infected, a state loses its TB-free status.
The outbreaks in Tulare County were the first in the state since 1991. State officials aren’t clear how the disease got into the state. “Before we lost our status, many farmers [had] already filed for an (out-of-state grazing) permit, and therefore maybe able to go this year without having a test,” said Ben Higgins, California Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president, in the AP report.
Cattle traveling from California out of state will now need certificates from veterinarians to ensure they are TB-free. According to the Associated Press, the California Cattlemen's Association estimates the cost to test an average 100-cow herd in California at about $1,500. Reportedly, the loss of TB-free status was no surprise for the state's $6 billion dairy and cattle industry. If no more animals are found with the disease this year, California can apply for TB-free status in April 2005. USDA will be accepting comments on the interim rule downgrading California’s bovine tuberculosis status until June 24, 2003.
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
May 5, 2003
CHANGES IN TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR GROUND BEEF SPECIFICATIONS – NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
On May 1, AMS announced New Technical Requirements for Proposed and Current Ground Beef Specifications for the National School Lunch Program. The changes in the specifications require up-stream micro testing of raw materials going into ground beef. The USDA is changing the criteria ground beef must meet to be purchased by the USDA for the National School Lunch Program.
In the subsequent “listening session” discussion following the announcement at the AMS Annual Vendor Conference in Kansas City, MO, NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow asked AMS officials to consider whether product that is tested positive for pathogens, including Salmonella which is not an adulterant, could be diverted for a cooking-only product that may also be available to the commodity program, similar to the commercial practice to divert such product to cook-only production. They said they would take this into consideration. Mucklow also asked that AMS hold a technical training meeting for the new requirements at a convenient airport location within the next several weeks.
These revised guidelines will be effective for the upcoming buying year that starts next month. The program will also consider annual contracts. These annual contracts will include a set minimum of product that the company must provide to the school lunch program. Solicitations for these should begin in the second half of June. There will still be short-term contracts.
When the new requirements refer to testing, it is testing to be done by lot. It is the company’s discretion to determine what exactly a lot is in their case. For more information on these changes, contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533.
NATIONAL ID SYSTEM GETS HIGH-LEVEL ENDORSEMENT
The Bush administration’s homeland security czar publicly endorsed nationwide identification of all commercial livestock last week. “Some of these thoughts are certainly preliminary in nature, but given the economic significance of the livestock industry ... it seems to us to be a very good initiative to undertake,” said Tom Ridge, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in a Sacramento Bee report. Ridge’s endorsement may be an indication that the federal government could offer up financial assistance for the system.
The plan calls for a “gate-to-plate” system tagging individual swine, cattle and dairy cows from birth to consumption. The proposed system would enable tracking of an animal within 48 hours of a public health problem. Reportedly, the proposal has gained momentum because of what Ridge described as “references that we pick up in the intelligence community” that the U.S. food supply could be a terrorist target.
“Everybody agrees that a national identification program is an excellent idea,” Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, told the Bee. “Our concern all along has been how to put the infrastructure into place, and how do you fund it.”
The International HACCP Alliance held its Board of Directors meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. It reviewed in depth its training activities, focused on industry personnel working in inspected establishments who are required, by regulation, to complete HACCP training. The Alliance, formed in 1994, maintains a registry of persons who have been trained according to the Alliance’s accredited training program. The Registry now exceeds 30,000 persons that have been trained.
The Alliance heard from Dr. Elsa Murano, Under Secretary for Food Safety, who reminded the Board that she herself, as a professor at Texas A&M University, took the Alliance sponsored “Train the Trainer” course.
Dr. Garry McKee, Administrator of FSIS, spoke to the Board about the Agency’s interests in working with the industry, and specifically with the Alliance, in training both industry and inspectors to understand and apply science-based HACCP. He was joined by Dr. Barbara Masters and Bobby Palesano from the Office of Field Operations and by two of the FSIS teachers at the FSIS Training Center.
NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow, who attended the meeting, raised once again the concerns about the line of delegated authority at FSIS, and the difficulty when plants are required to do different and sometimes conflicting things by different officials (IICs, CSOs, IDV teams, COs, etc.). Also, she told Dr. McKee that the industry wants to work with FSIS to promote science-based HACCP. FSIS funding for training has been increased, and the Alliance and its members: industry organizations, academia and related businesses engaged in HACCP training, look forward to working with the agency for improved training to meet the highest food safety standards in the world.
BINDERS AND ANTIMICROBIALS FINAL RULE
FSIS published its direct final rule entitled, “Approving Ingredients Used in the Production of Meat and Poultry Products: Use of Any Safe and Suitable Binder or Antimicrobial Agent in Meat and Poultry Products With Standards of Identity or Composition,” on April 29.
FSIS is “amending its regulations to permit the use of any safe and suitable binder or antimicrobial agent in the production of meat and poultry products that are subject to a standard of identity or composition that provides for the use of such ingredients. The use of these ingredients must be consistent with any limitations or conditions of use prescribed in applicable FSIS or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations.” This direct final rule should provide establishments with greater flexibility in formulating meat and poultry products.
This rule will be effective June 30, 2003 unless FSIS receives written adverse comments that are within the scope of this rulemaking or written notice of the intent to submit adverse comments that are within the scope of this rulemaking on or before May 29, 2003. If FSIS receives such comments, it will publish a timely withdrawal in the Federal Register informing the public that this rule will not take effect. Visit the notice on the Web at:
JOIN US FOR NMA’s 2003 SUMMER CONFERENCE!
AUGUST 20-23, 2003
GRAND GENEVA RESORT & SPA
LAKE GENEVA, WI