NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell and Kiran Kernellu
June 24, 2002
… you might get it! The plaintiffs in Livestock Marketing Association (LMA), Western Organization of Resource Councils, and eight producers vs. USDA and Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) were last week granted their request for declaratory and injunctive relief in the United States District Court, District of South Dakota. Federal District Judge Charles B. Kornmann found the Beef Promotion & Research Act, and the Beef Order (providing for the beef check-off) unconstitutional and unenforceable because they violate the plaintiff’s First Amendment rights. “The decision affirms a producer’s right to free speech, and the right to promote his own products,” opined LMA President Billy Perrin. The decision enjoins and restrains USDA and CBB from any further collection of beef checkoffs beginning July 15. USDA and CBB are also permanently enjoined and restrained from any further use of checkoff funds for the purpose of “lauding the merits of the checkoff program and from creating or distributing any material for the purpose of influencing governmental action or policy with regard to the beef checkoff or the Board or both.” And the Judge has said he would deny a stay if it was presented.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman expressed disappointment saying “USDA regards such programs, if properly administered, as effective tools for market enhancement.” USDA will be consulting the Department of Justice to determine any next steps. Wythe Willey, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and a beef producer from Cedar Rapids, IA said NCBA is confident the case will be overturned on appeal and the judge’s order stayed so that the checkoff can continue while the case advances to the next court level.
Many of NMA’s members are better acquainted with the Beef Council in their state, and relate to the programs and activities that they provide to enhance the market for beef. Many of these councils existed before the national checkoff started in the mid-1980s. NMA has spoken with several of them today and it is their expectation that they will continue to collect check-off pursuant to their separate state law. They are merely restrained from collecting the portion that would normally be sent to the national program. Programs which have relied on nationally collected funds include recipe development, advertising concept and creatives, nutrition and food safety research, and the development of materials such as promotional brochures and posters. “We believe the checkoff, the ‘Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner’ promotions and other similar programs designed to build demand have returned significant dividends to producers over the years,” said NCBA President Wythe Willey. “We will follow the law, of course, but believe the judge has misinterpreted it.”
Undoubtedly, the defendants will appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals; the prospective nature of the Order gives them about three weeks. Much will be debated about the Judge’s discussion in the 22-page opinion and order, but plenty more questions need to be addressed. NMA hopes that both parties can reach an amicable resolution to this industry-wide dilemma.
CDC’s FoodNet reported a decline of over 20% in infections of Salmonella, but the pathogen is still out there. Prompted by FDA tests, Astor Products of Jacksonville, FL recalled 5,000 pounds of sesame seeds recently. No illnesses have been reported. Likewise there were no illnesses reported from the last recall of a meat product due to Salmonella contamination, in April 2002. However, 16 people were sickened and four were hospitalized with severe Salmonella infections linked to a food establishment in Illinois in March.
Four other people were hospitalized in Quebec as a result of Salmonella thought to be carried by guppies, popular tropical fish for home aquariums. The National Post reported an aquarium-related occurrence that infected mostly children. To tackle this method of contamination, aquarium water should be regularly changed and accessories in contact with the water should be cleaned.
NMA recently sent letters to the San Francisco Chronicle regarding the June 19, 2002 article entitled "The Raw Truth about Steak Tartare.” NMA reminded the Chronicle that it “was remiss in neglecting to mention the inherent dangers to the elderly, immunosuppressed, and the very young from consuming raw beef .” The letter further stated that “raw beef can have E. coli O157:H7 on its surface. While easily eliminated in cooking, it can make people very ill if not removed, and can be fatal in some cases. Furthermore, the addition of a raw egg puts consumers at risk from Salmonella.”
E. COLI SPREADS
Four students diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome were hospitalized and 21 other students were sickened as a consequence of E. coli in Waukesha, WI recently. According to an article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, county health officials determined that a pupil contracted E. coli from an unknown source, went to school while ill and contaminated the food bar. The school’s food service provider, Sodexho, believes that the E. coli was spread by a school water fountain.
The Rockland Journal News recently reported 25 people having contracted E. coli in New York state. Investigators deduced that most of the cases were incidences of contamination through person-to-person contact. However, it was discovered that a six-year-old Orangetown girl seriously ill with E. coli O157:H7 had contaminated ground beef in her family’s freezer. Investigators haven’t yet determined whether the meat was infected before or after leaving the store.
Reuters Health recently reported a study finding E. coli in guacamole, green sauce, pico de gallo, salsa and hot sauce. Researchers at the University of Texas-Houston Health Center took tabletop samples from popular tourist eateries in Guadalajara, Mexico and Houston, TX, and found that 66% were contaminated with Escherichia coli, some strains of which are pathogenic. Levels of contamination were 400 to 1,000 times greater in Mexico than in Texas, perhaps due to the fact that sauces in the U.S. were more likely to have been refrigerated before being served.
The first of its kind to investigate disease across entire plant and animal systems according to Health Scout News, a study found that global warming is kindling disease epidemics in plants, animals and humans. The two-year study from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) published in a recent issue of Science “suggests many pathogens and their carriers spread farther and faster in warm weather,” reported the Wall Street Journal. Animal ecologist Rick Ostfeld of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY, an author of the study, said “it’s possible that the time it takes for [a disease-carrying organism] population to double might be halved with a single degree of warming.” Health Scout News reports that hosts’ susceptibility to infection also increase along with the temperature. Earth’s temperature has risen by 1 degree Fahrenheit this century, and scientists expect an increase of several more degrees by 2100.
The Journal further reports that “as cold winters, which kill some of these [pathogen] carriers, become milder, more germs and parasites will survive,” posing new risk for many species to become new victims in new territories. A controversial topic since its inception in 1991, the effect of global warming on human epidemics is difficult to assess given that variants such as sanitation, pollution, and habitat destruction must be weighed. In a recent report to the United Nations, the Bush administration acknowledged that human activity, such as greenhouse gases, is chiefly to blame for global warming. “The good news is that this may serve as a wake-up call,” said Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He further stated that “we’ve underestimated the rate at which climate would change, [and] the rate at which biological systems would respond to that change …I like to think systems can be restabilized.”
FSIS recently discovered a Listeria monocytogenes contamination at John Graves Food Service Inc. on a routine inspection. The Chillicothe, MO firm has voluntarily recalled 10 pounds of sliced ham supplied to a distributor, and later sent to customers. No illnesses have been reported. The Institute of Food Technologists cited recent Listeria monocytogenes “outbreaks in Europe and the U.S. as [having demonstrated] the importance of incorporating safety hurdles in meat and poultry products,” and the industry has heeded the call.
Oscar Mayer, a division of Kraft Inc., has developed a new safety tool for the meat and poultry industry. The Opti-Form Listeria Control Model, from Purac America, is a tool to calculate proper levels of potassium or sodium lactate and sodium diacetate to control or delay the growth of Listeria monocytogenes in cooked and cured meat and poultry products. The amount of salt, product moisture, sodium or potassium lactate and sodium diacetate in a cured product can be used to provide calculations predicting how Listeria monocytogenes would grow during storage at 4°C. More information can be obtained by visiting http://www.purac.com/.
American Sheep Industry Weekly reported that USDA’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin noted 28% of U.S. pasture and range was poor or very poor. Last year at the same time, that figure was 16%. At the height of the drought last August, that figure was almost 40%. These conditions are focused in the West and Great Plains. If they continue through the summer, the nation’s cowherds will decline further.
Controversy about what feed is best for our cattle is sizzling in the Bay Area and Northern California. Some local upscale restaurants’ chefs have commended grass-fed beef as “better for your health, easier on the environment and [tasting] better than what most Americans eat – beef fattened on corn and soy in huge feedlots in the Midwest,” according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle. Traditional cattlemen maintain that grass-fed beef can’t satiate the nation’s hunger for beef. In fact, a switch to grass-fed beef could cut the country’s cattle production in half.
U.S. cattle were once raised on grass, their natural diet, as they still are throughout most of the world. After WWII American ranchers began using cheaper, government-subsidized corn as feed when there was a swelling in food demand. Corn grows beef faster and fattier, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Grass-fed beef tends to have a delicate, light texture with a more complex flavor as compared to corn-fed beef. Chef Laurence Jossel of Chow and Park Chow finds that “the flavor [of grass-fed beef] is cleaner.”
Some consumers want to avoid beef containing hormones, antibiotics, and typical feed. Grass-fed may be viable in this regard, but what may not be practical is the cost of grass-fed beef, which is often twice the price of corn-fed beef. Rancher Bill Niman, a member of NMA, who produces grain-finished beef raised mostly on pasture, said, “people want to imagine a beautiful vision of a chicken out there eating earwigs and cows roaming free around the pasture. To feed millions of people everyday? No way. If they want to eat grass-fed, they have to think of this as a seasonal thing like a peach or a tomato.” However, NCBA’s Issues Update notes that “there may be a niche market opportunity for those that produce beef from grass-fed cattle.”
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 24, 2002
According to today’s Oakland Tribune, “every hosptial harbors a unique microflora left behind by the flow of patients through the facility” which tend to be highly resistant to antibiotics. Frequent use of the same antibiotics have resulted in the propagation of these smart bugs. Such superbugs are also known to infect livestock.
Larry Lambert, manager of the microbiology lab at Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA, has formulated a plan to curb these superbugs’ proliferation. Physicians are directed to prescribe one of a range of antibiotics for a particular symptom. Within 96 hours, the microbiology lab tests for the specific bug causing the infection, allowing the doctor to switch to an antibiotic customized specifically for that bug. Over a four year span, the plan resulted in an 80% decline in the most serious superbugs in the hospital.
Mexico has had an antidumping order on U.S. beef exports since May 2000, oftenviewed as a retaliatory response to U.S. investigations of Mexican live cattle. Small and medium exporters selling to niche markets have justifiable complaints about Mexico’s action, which inhibits their ability to participate in the market.
The U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the United States Trade Representative are working to set up a meeting with the Mexican government to determine the best way to pursue these issues and concerns.
These questions will assist the Department of Commerce in developing a clear and accurate picture of how the antidumping investigation was conducted and the effect it’s having on the U.S. industry. Please answer the questions and return via e-mail to [email protected] or fax at (202) 482-7952 and Rosemary Mucklow via fax at (510) 763-6186.
QUESTIONS FOR US BEEF PRODUCERS/EXPORTERS
1. What products do you produce for sale to the U.S. market (e.g., no roll meat/non graded beef products; graded beef products; specific cuts; etc.)? For foreign markets (specifically Mexico)?
2. Were you shipping beef to Mexico prior to the antidumping investigation that was initiated in mid-1999 against U.S. Beef exports to Mexico? [If not, skip to question #8.] Can you estimate how much (volume/value)?
3. Were you informed by Mexico's Secretaria de Economia that there was an antidumping investigation against Beef exports from the United States? If so, when were you so informed and in what manner?
4. Were you informed by a third party (for example, an industry association or a U.S. exporter, packer or producer) of Mexico's antidumping investigation of Beef from the United States? If so, when were you so informed and in what manner?
5. Did you participate in the investigation (i.e. respond to questionnaires from the Mexican authorities, correspond with them, permit them access to your facilities to verify information you provided to them)?
6. What antidumping duty rates have been assigned to your products exported to Mexico? Do you know whether your products are subject to the "all others" rate or to a specific duty rate that is assigned to your suppliers of beef?
7. Have you requested the Mexican Government to conduct an administrative review of your products to determine whether you are continuing to dump or sell into Mexico at a price that is lower than the price at which you sell the same product in the U.S.?
8. If you were not shipping to Mexico during the period of investigation, have you made a shipment and/or requested a new shipper review?
9. What products do you now ship to Mexico? How much (volume/value)?
10. Do you have any other concerns regarding this antidumping investigation and order of which the U.S. government should be aware?
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are not required to hire an individual whose health or safety are risked by performing a job, reported the California Chamber of Commerce Alert. The Court concurred with a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the California Chamber of Commerce and other employer groups in a unanimous decision, also validating the stance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). EEOC interpreted ADA as allowing “threat to self” as a hiring standard.
The Court upheld the EEOC regulation over the competing issue under ADA safeguarding “a disabled individual’s right to operate on equal terms within the workplace” and a mandate by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to “ensure the safety of each and every worker.” This recent ruling is a reversal of a decision by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court Of Appeals, which ruled in favor of a worker laid off from a company because he could not safely work in a refinery due to a liver condition. In that case the 9th Circuit U.S. Court Of Appeals overturned the ruling of the district court in favor of the refinery.
The FSIS Alameda District Office held an industry meeting on Friday, June 21, 2002, in Oakland, California, to report on the findings of the Agency’s Food Safety Systems Correlation Team. Those in attendance included both agency personnel from the Alameda District Office, several Circuit Supervisors and industry owners and operators. The meeting, led by Mr. Bobby Palesano, Branch Chief of Domestic Review, USDA/FSIS Tech Center, was positive and instructional noting consistency in the food safety system trends both within the district and nation wide. Palesano reported that, while there are areas that needed improvement, food safety plans are, for the most part, in compliance with the HACCP and Sanitation SOP regulations. Areas in need of improvement include documentation of preventive measures recorded on Pre-Op and Operational Sanitation SOP records, HACCP plan validation and decision making documentation, and proper recording of HACCP plan verification activities.
The ever-widening waistline of Americans has fueled the worry of U.S. food and beverage makers. A Wall Street Journal article reported that some companies are distressing over the possible legal issues of our national obesity health crisis. Some companies have donated health equipment to schools, expanded health and wellness information on their websites, and are considering adding warnings against overeating on their packaging. The Surgeon General detailed the epidemic levels of obesity in the nation, calling for a national plan of action. Lawmakers are considering several options, including levying taxes on junk foods or requiring special labeling for foods high in fat and sodium, both of which food-trade groups oppose. For more information about obesity, see last week’s Lean Trimmings.