NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell and Kiran Kernellu
June 17, 2002
PLAINTIFFS’ LAW FIRM POSTS PFGE IMAGES AT E. COLI WEBSITE
In May, Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark L.L.P. (MC) posted PFGE genetic images of E. coli O157:H7 strains, obtained from USDA/FSIS through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), online at http://www.fsis-pfge.org/, link from NMAonline.org. While the food industry and MC are often on opposite sides of issues, MC has performed a service to the food industry by posting these PFGE genetic images of E.coli O157:H7.
For several years, and without much success, the industry has been trying to get the USDA-FSIS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release the positive cultures and their PFGE patterns to companies that have been implicated in recalls and outbreaks. Now that MC has opened the door, the food industry can finally obtain the data to enhance its food safety programs.
The downside of the way the data is presented on www.fsis-pfge.org is that the information can be easily misinterpreted by viewers who don’t have a strong background in microbiology, molecular epidemiology and epidemiology. For instance, the website showcases examples of beef products that have tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 as the result of FSIS’s random testing program. People without appropriate background and training may assume that consumption of the batches of foods which were recalled as the result of positive samples, listed on the site resulted in illnesses. However, to the best of NMA’s knowledge, none of the positive products from the FSIS random testing program for E. coli O157:H7 have been linked to illness.
More importantly, the information presented at FSIS-PFGE.org is not necessarily useable in the way that MC suggests. The site aims to match PFGE images from illness with PFGE images from a particular company’s product. But, unlike human fingerprints, bacterial genetic PFGE images do not appear to be so unique as to confirm an absolute identity, between two products which each have the same image. Rather, the PFGE images seem to suggest a look-alike family grouping. For this reason, results based on PFGE images need to be confirmed by some other method in order to achieve 100% certainty that the organisms in question are identical. In the absence of other evidence that links a batch of foods to particular patients, a match of genetic PFGE images is very often merely a coincidental match and not proof that the food in question was the source of the outbreak.
In the 1998 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in the Whitewater Park in Atlanta, Georgia, 19 E. coli O157:H7 strains were isolated from patients. They all had an identical genetic image (using a single fingerprinting reaction); they also matched two other small clusters of patients and an E. coli O157:H7 strain isolated from recalled ground beef from Bauer Meats.
The problem was that none of the other two patient clusters had gone to the waterpark, and none of the patients in the three clusters had ever consumed the ground beef. Since the epidemiological linkage was not obvious, additional PFGE were obtained. The results eliminated the two smaller clusters (it showed that they were different). However, it still found that the meat and the Whitewater patient isolates were identical. Two months later, additional testing proved that there was no relationship between the Whitewater outbreak and the contaminated ground beef. The previous conclusions had been completely erroneous.
Tragically, the news came too late. The company had already been turned into a pariah in the press. Frank Bauer, the owner of Bauer Meats. committed suicide without ever knowing that the linkage of his meat to that waterpark outbreak was completely fallacious.
NMA appreciates the input of several scientists in the preparation of this item. A complete listing of scientists in academia is available in NMA’s Membership Directory. Copies are available on request.
Bovine tuberculosis (TB) is still a threat to the industry. A bovine tuberculosis meeting was conducted at the Tulare County Agricultural Building Auditorium, on Friday, June 14, 2002 to provide an update on the diagnosis of bovine tuberculosis in Tulare County, California.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) declared California “free of bovine tuberculosis” in October 1999. However, TB and testing are an issue once again, as an infected dairy herd was identified in Tulare County on June 1. The affected herd has been quarantined, and all livestock over the age of 16 months have been tested. All cattle testing positive with the caudal fold TB skin test were removed from the herd, slaughtered, their tissue collected and carcasses rendered. California has enhanced slaughter surveillance at all slaughter plants processing cows in the state.
The investigation, in cooperation with USDA, is estimated to be completed in about four months to determine the sources of infection to the Tulare herd. High-risk herds will be identified and scheduled for TB testing within approximately three weeks. All cattle that have left infected herds within the past five years are being traced for subsequent purchase for slaughter and collection of tissue samples. All herds having received cattle from infected herds will be tested for TB. A precautionary measure mandates that all breeding animals over six months of age leaving California receive a negative TB test within 30 days of movement. This is a precaution which will hopefully protect other states from this infection. Unfortunately, incidences of TB have arisen separately in Texas.
USDA removed Texas’ TB-free status this month, which it had held since November 2000 after two of the state’s 153,000 cattle herds came down with TB last summer. (See last week’s edition of Lean Trimmings and Herd on the Hill for more information.)
Berkeley Farms of Hayward, CA has voluntarily recalled its entire range of milk products due to antibiotic contaminants. Most of the 10 brand names are sold exclusively in Northern California.
No illnesses from the unsafe levels of penicillin G have been reported but officials say allergic reactions are possible. CDFA called the recall “unprecedented” and a “significant incident,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
To correct last week’s misstatement: Australia seeks a reduction in the existing 26% tariff on over quota beef.
“During the four to five months cattle spend on feedlots, they typically double in weight but producers can lose money on animals whose meat turns out to be low grade,” reported the Wall Street Journal last Tuesday. “Sometimes you think an animal is tender and it’s not,” said Ken Bull, vice president for cattle supply at Excel Corp. of Wichita, KS. Cargill Inc., the second largest beef processor and fourth largest cattle feeder. The company is making a $10M investment in genetic screening to eliminate this costly guesswork.
Cargill “has long been one of the industry’s most innovative companies,” according to Cattle Buyers Weekly. Cargill is investing in genetics screening in order to predict which cattle will be a cut above in consistency, taste and tenderness. Two units of Cargill, Caprock Cattle Feeders and Excel Corp., will provide the $10M to MetaMorphix Inc., a Maryland-based life sciences company, over a two-year period to obtain a map of cattle genomes identifying desirable traits in cattle. Although the commercial use is several years away, “this project will be a huge leap forward in the industry’s ongoing efforts to provide [the consistency and tenderness consumers want,]” says Excel president Bill Buckner. The project, the largest ever attempted, will provide ranchers and feedlots a means to consistently produce beef in line with customer wants. Producers will be more efficient and profitable, and beef quality and demand will rise.
The move to limit the number of cattle sold from captive supply (CS) is growing, according to Cattle Buyers Weekly. While some believe that if beef supply and demand were balanced, and less pork and poultry were on the market, CS would be a non-issue; others say CS is the main culprit in the problem in the cattle-feeding process.
Meanwhile, meetings around the country continue to occur to discuss captive supply. Friday, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) had a proposal before its board of directors to restrict CS supply to 25% per week at TCFA area beef plants. The Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), though aware of the TCFA proposal, has not broached the issue with its members. Nebraska Cattlemen already had a policy in place to discourage CS in any form, and has for quite some time. It urges its members to sell only though negotiated pricing. Producers in California assembled in Cottonwood, CA last Wednesday to discuss captive supply.
Purdue University researchers have developed a new pasteurization method for bologna, ham and salami you can do at home, according to Health Scout News. Simply wrap each slice in plastic, dip it into water heated to 185 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds and then slip it into cold water at 39 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds. This procedure eliminates harmful bacteria from the surface of meats, which is where it’s most likely found. The taste or quality isn’t adversely affected by the procedure. This treatment extends shelf life, but can be done at home for that extra measure of safety.
Two California cattle-sale companies have successfully established themselves on the Internet, according to an article in California Cattleman Magazine. Western Video Market (http://www.wvmcattle.com/) sees its online business as “an added opportunity to get a satisfactory price” for its pre-existing video sales business. The company has had an online business since June of 2000. Stampede Cattle Company (http://www.stampedecattle.com/), on the other hand, focuses primarily on Internet sales. The company offers daily trading of stockers, feeders and breeding stock and is supported by a network of more than 60 regional managers and field agents.
According to a story in the Knight-Ridder Tribune, a disposable glove which can kill microbes is ready for release. Using a patented system called Microsphere the glove releases chlorine dioxide to assist in the elimination of tough-to-kill bacteria. “By the end of summer, we will see wide acceptance across [supermarkets, food processors and food services],” predicted Gorden Putz of Bernard Technologies. The gloves are light activated and can last up six to eight hours depending on the light intensity. They cost 15-20% more than regular gloves.
It is with sadness that we report the death on June 11 of Sam Beard. He was 82 years young. Sam represented many firms in Northern California in collective bargaining and trust representation. He was respected by management and labor, brought to the table humor and true caring about the welfare of people and a creative approach to problem solving. He was always a "can do" sort of guy, with charm and eloquence that made things work. He is survived by his daughter Catherine, his son Jim Beard who today continues the same work as done by his father, and five grandchildren. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family.
NMA remembers Dr. Frank Ogasawara, who passed away in Davis, California on Saturday, June 8, 2002. Dr. Ogasawara was a Professor Emeritus of Avian Science and Animal Sciences at University of California, Davis. He helped to start the U.C. Davis Raptor Center, which focuses on raptor research and education and continues to flourish today.
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 and Kiran Kernellu
June 17, 2002
BORN IN THE USA?
The feature film Born in East L.A., starring Cheech Marin, retells the true story of an American-born Latino who was mistakenly deported and had to re-enter the country illegally just to get home. The new country-of-origin requirements may create the same situation for some border-jumping livestock.
U.S. cattle are sent for slaughter to Canada and Mexico in significant numbers, according to the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) January 2000 report entitled, Beef and Lamb, Implications of Labeling by Country of Origin. But the new country-of-origin requirements would not brand these cattle as American. Cattle born in Canada and Mexico are raised, slaughtered, and processed in the U.S. in equally significant numbers. These cattle aren’t American by the new country-of-origin standards, either. Beef, lamb and pork must come exclusively from an animal that is born, raised and slaughtered in the United States to bear an American country-of-origin label. It’s likely that the number of imported cattle has grown in recent years, begging the questions, “What about the border-jumping livestock? What is their country of origin?”
GAO’s report states that the U.S. imported about 2 million cattle in 1998, only 1.1 million of which were destined for immediate slaughter, while about 170,000 were raised in the U.S. before slaughter. That same year, the U.S. imported approximately 720,000 cattle from Mexico to be raised here before slaughter, probably because they hadn’t yet reached the slaughter weight of about 1,300 pounds, as is often the case with imported cattle not sent directly to slaughter. The report goes on to say that imported cattle represent about 5.5% of the cattle slaughtered that year. During the years 1993-1998, total U.S. consumption of beef increased 9%, from 24.3 billion pounds to about 26.6 billion pounds. Beef importation increased 10% during the same period, from 2.4 billion pounds to 2.6 billion pounds.
The fact is that Americans eat a substantial amount of beef, lamb and pork, and a lot of that meat is imported. In fact, it is often derived from well-traveled livestock. No one has yet determined how to label our border-jumping livestock. Perhaps a North American label, as was suggested to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman by Canadian officials, isn’t such an impractical solution after all. Especially considering that it hasn’t been determined how much the new country-of-origin requirements will cost.
Early estimates show the costs of implementing the new country-of-origin requirements are considerable. “The meat industry has estimated an annual cost of $182 million for meatpackers and processors to maintain information solely on the country of origin of beef,” as outlined in the GAO report. It further notes that this figure doesn’t include the costs to packers and processors of then identifying and maintaining country-of-origin information for meat from cattle that were imported and raised in the United States. U.S. packers, processors and grocers could pass these newly incurred costs forward to the consumer. Higher retail prices can hamper the consumers’ motivation to “buy American,” and provide additional economic losses for our American beef and lamb producers.
The school lunch program comes up for reauthorization in Congress next year. Legislators are examining fast food, vending machines and the federal school lunch program, acknowledging obesity as a public health crisis. In 1999 about 14% of teenagers were found to be overweight by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thrice the rate in the late 1970s. “Participants in school meal programs have been shown to consume better diets than nonparticipants. If students replace school meals with competitive foods of minimal nutritional value, the quality of their diets can be expected to deteriorate,” writes Marion Nestle in Food Politics, published earlier this year. For example, in school lunch purchases of ground beef, patties are held to a target of 17% fat. This is generally lower than fast food. And, when USDA purchases lean beef patties, those must be below 10% fat.
However, vending machines are in 43% of elementary, 74% of middle, and practically all high schools. A 2000 CDC study found that twenty percent (20%) of schools sell fast food such as Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and McDonalds. The problem is money says the Wall Street Journal in an article covering the topic last week. The Journal reported that, at best, schools break even on school lunches. They receive $2.09 in reimbursements on free lunches, $1.69 on reduced-price meals and $0.20 on full price meals. This isn’t “a lot of money to create a whole meal for a teenage boy,” according to Margo Wootan, director of nutritional policy at the Center for Science in Public Interest. Full-fat and processed foods are significantly cheaper than lean meat, low-fat cheese and fresh produce. Schools can earn profit margins of 50% or more on such items as chicken fingers, potato chips and soft drinks.
Our thanks to NMA consultant Pete Tancredi attended the Food Security Alliance Communications meeting hosted by the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) on June 11. Food tampering was the focus of the meeting, specifically the heightened threat in the wake of September 11th. While food tampering has always been a serious concern of the food industry, any individual plant or industry used as a vehicle for terrorism could be ravaged severely.
Various government agencies emphasized their concern over increased contacts since 9-11 and the need for changes in their assessment of threats or acts of food tampering. In particular, it was stressed that plant operators must know what, where, when, how, why and whose materials come into their plants, no matter the reason. They should also know who receives products where. Security should be increased around plants and transportation vehicles. Background tests should be conducted on all employees, who should be alert at all times and ready to report suspicious activity. A follow-up meeting will soon be scheduled by the Alliance.
Recently Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced the authorization to hire 1,000 new employees around the nation to expedite the implementation of new Farm Bill programs. These new employees will aid counties with the increased workload to “help ensure we meet our commitment,” said Veneman in a recent article in American Sheep Industry Weekly. The first round of about 400 new hires will serve at local FSA offices with the fewest staff, where the new workload will be the greatest. Implementation of the new law began immediately upon enactment with an implementation that works to advance the approval of the new regulations.
MEXICO ANIMAL HEALTH LAW
Mexico passed a new animal health law on June 12, reports USMEF. In 120 days all import verification points on the U.S. side of the border will no longer be authorized to inspect meat, poultry, or animal byproducts for import to Mexico. Contact [email protected] for more information.