NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell and Kiran Kernellu
July 29, 2002
The American Meat Science Association (AMSA) is hosting its Reciprocal Meat Conference this week at Michigan State University in Lansing, MI. Every year, meat scientists come together in a university setting for this important opportunity to “reciprocate” with their colleagues on the newest scientific findings and advances for meat. It is a signal event, and this year it is more important than ever. The meat industry faces new challenges and questions about how to add to the margin of safety, especially for raw meat.
This past weekend, a miracle happened in Pennsylvania. Nine miners were hoisted to safety after being buried underground for three days. The miracle was made possible because science and technology worked with sheer grit and determination. Engineering was behind drilling which resulted in a 240-foot shaft through which the miners could be rescued. Engineering also pumped the water out of the flooded mine and provided air in the chamber where the miners were trapped. However, all would have been for naught if it weren’t for was the grit and determination of the nine entrapped men. These brave men supported each other as surface workers overcame huge obstacles, such as a broken drill head, and finally persevered in their rescue efforts.
We know of no single miracle by which the meat industry can make raw meat free of pathogens. We do have ways of reducing the likelihood of pathogens. Beef processors have implemented many such technologies. A recent feature article in Food Safety Magazine is a current listing of just about everything that is available. Food irradiation is an absolute step as is heating to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Some other science-based technologies look promising, but are pending acceptance by the federal bureaucracy’s approval system.
As the meat scientists gather in Michigan this week, our industry looks to them to bring us the science for even greater advances about how to make raw meat safer for consumers. But let’s not kid ourselves. Random end-product testing does nothing to make meat safer! In fact, such testing is more likely to give consumers a false sense of security, since a negative result does not mean that even a single beef patty is free of deadly pathogens. Microbial testing is a useful tool to verify process control. The meat industry is doing a lot of testing in its efforts to ensure that its end products are as safe as it can possibly make them.
Meat scientists in Michigan are meeting this week under new pressures of illness outbreaks attributed to consumption of meat products. After the illnesses in the Pacific Northwest in 1993, major breakthroughs were made, the first of which was acceptance by USDA of new technologies to use steam and hot water on kill floors. Dr. Elsa Murano, USDA’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, addressed our industry last week and asked for input about how to make the next advances to make raw meat safer.
On behalf of its members, NMA is proud to both support and cooperate with the meat scientists. Together, with both science and determination, we will turn aside the wrongful allegations hurled at our industry by the misinformed, and find the best scientific means to make raw meat, not a sterile product, even safer than it is today. It is time to truly use the best science we have to make meat safer. We must stop wasting our resources in areas that do very little but misinform the consumer and make the meat no safer.
While some consumer groups oppose irradiating food, last week the American Council on Science and Health (ACHS) urged consumers to demand irradiation of products to prevent future illnesses such as those related to the ConAgra recall of late. In a press release last Monday, ACHS advocated irradiation of ground meat products to kill bacteria in meat. ACHS president Dr. Elizabeth Whelan said, “Consumers should be demanding that irradiation be added to the arsenal of techniques routinely used to safeguard our food supply.”
Concerns about consumer acceptance may have dissuaded food processors from widely utilizing the technique before. The success of American Dairy Queen Corp. (ADQ) in its test offering of irradiated burgers in Minnesota shows a positive consumer outlook on irradiation. In fact, ADQ recently expanded its test to include 30 more restaurants offering irradiated products in the Twin Cities metro-area. According to Karen Penner, a food safety specialist at Kansas State University-Manhattan and a part of the Food Science Institute, 60 Dairy Queen restaurants in Minnesota offer irradiated meat. Consumers nationwide can obtain irradiated meat from Omaha Steaks and NMA member Schwan’s, which irradiates all of its ground beef.
Jack Odachowski, vice president of purchasing and distribution for RTM Restaurant Group, views ADQ’s tests as successful because irradiated meat has been offered as a choice alongside non-irradiated products, rather than forced on consumers by mandate. According to ACHS, sales of irradiated meat have been widely accepted when consumers are educated about its improved safety, which is just what ADQ did when it first launched its irradiated products.
Food irradiation has been studied for over forty years. Irradiation technology breaks the DNA of bacteria apart, preventing reproduction. According to Penner, “[Applying irradiation to food] at low levels does little to the food itself. There’s no change in color, odor, flavor…it doesn’t cook the product because there’s no heat involved.” Irradiation hasn’t been shown to cause cancer, nor is it radioactive. Penner feels that irradiation is the technology that holds much promise for the future of food safety. She said, “It would probably eliminate most if not all of the bacteria. It eliminates virtually all micro-organisms.” But Minnesota-based Prairie Natural Beef owner Kathy Scharplaz, who is against mass production of meat animals, doesn’t see a need for irradiation: “If you raise beef the right way and you process the right way, you do not need irradiation.” Regardless, proper handling and cooking are the most effective ways to reduce illness.
Penner also stated that the food industry often tackles problems swiftly. This is exemplified by development of such technologies as the HACCP program, steam pasteurization, as well as irradiation. Beef and chicken have already been approved for irradiation. Approval is currently pending on processed products.
NMA welcomes its new Government Affairs Liaison, Shawna Thomas. Shawna comes to NMA from Fox News, where she worked first as White House Unit Production Intern and later as both Weekend Guest Coordinator and Bureau Assistant. Shawna is a recent graduate of the George Washington University, where she majored in Political Communication and minored in Theatre. She was honored as a Presidential Academic Scholar and a Presidential Arts Scholar.
Shawna will work exclusively out of the NMA-East office in Washington, D.C. Members attending NMA’s Summer Board Meeting in Sedona, AZ can meet her in person.
Jarol B. Manheim, Professor of Media and Public Affairs and of Political Science at George Washington University, spoke before the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Workforce Protections about corporate campaigns. Manheim will also be speaking at the Industry Session on Friday, August 16th at NMA’s Summer Board Meeting in Sedona, AZ. His research and teaching interests center on strategic political communication, as reflected in his books, All of the People All of The Time: Strategic Communication in American Politics, Strategic Public Diplomacy and American Foreign Policy: The Evolution of Influence. Most recently Manheim is the author of Death of a Thousand Cuts, a book about the coordination of anti-corporate campaigns by non-governmental organizations.
Dr. Linda A. Detwiler has been battling Bovine Spongiform Encephalopothy (BSE) since 1996. The USDA began surveilling for BSE in 1990, six years after which Detwiler became coordinator. The USDA program also tracks scrapie and Chronic Wasting Disease and other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Given that BSE emerged in the mid-1980s, she is a pioneer on the path to controlling and eradicating this disease. She coordinated Ohio’s scrapie program in 1985 and is now serving as a senior staff veterinarian for APHIS.
Detwiler had reservations about a career path in the USDA at first, according to an article in the July 2002 edition of Scientific American. She “heard from the outside that only slackers work for the government,” but “to look at the committees that [she] served on and the people [she] worked with, [they] did enact things at certain times that…have been important to keep the risk low.”
Rarely is the mitigated risk recognized or rewarded by the general public. Last year APHIS “depopulated” two flocks of sheep in Vermont, and Detwiler was engulfed in controversy. She even received threatening phone calls! Detwiler was tireless in her efforts to educate those who contacted her with concerns. She also provides technical advice to national and international advisory committees. She spoke at NMA’s 2002 convention in Monterey, CA, as well. Despite the unpredictable nature of her position, she hasn’t any regrets about her work. “I wouldn’t change a thing. Even with the death threats,” she said.
Brown of the National Institutes of Health (NIS) called Detwiler “first-rate.” The results of Detwiler and her colleagues are unequaled: U.S. actions have kept the nation BSE-free. A risk assessment conducted by Harvard University last November found the danger of BSE to be very low in the U.S. Stanley B. Prusiner of the University of California San Francisco, who won the Nobel prize for developing the prion concept said of Detwiler: “She’s A-plus. The American people are lucky to have her.” Detwiler and her colleagues continue to visit additional actions to ensure safety.
What to do with tens of thousands of deer carcasses? In an attempt to exterminate an outbreak of chronic wasting disease (CWD) some 25,000 deer are being hunted. All of the deer in a three-county, 361-square-mile radius area are to be slayed in four once-a-month, week-long kills to halt the spread of an outbreak which has sickened eighteen deer since last fall. The state also plans to reduce the number of deer in neighboring counties by 50%, according to the AAMPlifier. This outbreak is the first instance of the disease east of the Mississippi.
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has weighed a few options, including chemical dissolving, opening up a state-owned landfill, or the costly cremation of the carcasses. If need be, the department will store the carcasses until a viable disposal means is found.
The British Food Standards Agency has appointed a group of consumer representatives and experts in science, industry and food-law enforcement to aid in their review of the Over Thirty Month (OTM) Rule. The OTM Rule prohibits human consumption of meat from cattle over 30 months old at the time of slaughter. The group is charged with advising the Agency on the level of risk to consumers, if any, if the rule were changed. A risk assessment is in development by a separate group.
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
July 29, 2002
FSIS/INDUSTRY MEETING BRIEFS:
A meeting at USDA/FSIS was held on Tuesday, July 23rd in which the FSIS Administrator outlined the agency’s expectations for the customers of ConAgra that received beef trimmings covered in the recent recall. It is clear that USDA expects companies that received product that is now under recall to document what they have done to identify and recover the product or show that it has been consumed and is out of the food system. Efforts must be documented and readily available because a USDA Compliance Officer (CO) will be visiting all customers to ensure that appropriate follow-up action has been taken. The OF&W memorandum covers the essentials about USDA’s expectations that were discussed, a copy of which is available by contacting Kiran Kernellu at mailto:[email protected].
The USDA met on Wednesday, July 24th to discuss the ramifications of the ConAgra recall. The Agency said that it was still considering how to proceed with the industry and asked that industry communicate possible solutions. Those assembled were universally in agreement over the efficacy of process controls and tests to validate those controls. Process control led by science was seen as the key to making real improvements. Possible solutions that were suggested by participants included standardizing sampling programs throughout the industry and shifting the importance of tests from pass/fail to evaluational.
USDA officials said they are not ready to shift that process of using units defined by companies doing the testing, though in the event of illnesses, a clean-up to clean-up standard will be applied to determine recall size. USDA also assured that in the event of illness it would not issue recalls for products that tested negative for pathogens unless those products were directly linked to illnesses.
The Agency put together a series of questions for industry to answer.
· Is the testing that is being conducted by industry and by FSIS appropriate to verify process controls for E. coli O157:H7?
· What alternatives need to be considered?
· Is carcass testing for E. coli O157:H7 an effective means to screen out contaminated carcasses and thus diminish the possibility of trimmings being contaminated?
· Where in the process should industry be conducting testing?
· Where should FSIS be conducting testing (carcass, trimming, ground at federal, ground at retail)?
· Should sample lots always be defined as “from clean-up to clean-up”? If not, how else and why?
· Is carcass washing an effective method to diminish the possibility of trimmings being contaminated?
· What other interventions should be applied?
· What factors influence the effectiveness of current interventions?
· Are there new or developing interventions that should be considered?
· Where in the process (carcasses, trimming, ground) should interventions be used?
· To what extent is environmental/cross contamination an issue during processing?
· Is E. coli O157:H7 more prevalent than we thought (especially at certain times of the year)?
· What do we know about the live animal production or handling that may impact on the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 during processing?
Burger King Chairman, CEO and President John Dasburg and several equity partners won the bidding war to purchase Burger King's 11,400 fast food chains from London-based Diageo PLC, a beverage conglomerate, who has owned Burger King for the past two years. In their quest to become purely a drinks company Diageo considered both an initial public offering and a management buyout before putting Burger King up for sale in March, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Dasburg group will pay $2.26 billion for the fast-food chain, a price that is dependent upon Burger King satisfying certain financial performance targets. Burger King, the second largest fast-food chain in the world, posted $11.2 billion in sales in fiscal 2001. If it meets the final stipulation, Burger King will become a part of a group that includes Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.
Franchisees, represented by the National Franchisee Association, which represents 1,300 operators and 75% of all restaurants, petitioned strongly for the Dasburg group. Franchisees have long supported Dasburg and his executive team's ongoing turnaround effort. It's likely that the existing Burger King executive team will remain in place and the turnaround plan they've implemented will continue on its 16-month course.
HOUSE LEADERSHIP SUPPORTS SECURITY
The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives has championed the biosecurity reorganization plan, according to the National Chicken Council’s Washington Report. The plan leaves routine agricultural functions in USDA, but moves border inspection, APHIS’ agricultural quarantine inspection program and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the proposed Department of Homeland Security. The White House sought to move APHIS in its entirety to this proposed department.
The administration, through Ann Veneman, has supported this arrangement by the House, which gives the White House “a bill that’s about 80% of what they started with,” said House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-TX). Veneman testified before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security last week, offering her continued support for the proposal to create the Department of Homeland Security. ASI Weekly reported that Veneman called President Bush’s plan “bold and historic” adding it would “better protect, better prepare and better coordinate” homeland security. She also said that “[t]he Administration supports the amendment and … looks forward to working with Congress to ensure the final bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security the coordinating authorities required to address the threat of agro-terrorism.”
Some farm groups and state agriculture commissioners have expressed concern that moving APHIS to the proposed department will leave a sizeable breach in the battle against domestic plant and animal threats, as reported by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). Earlier this month a coalition of plant and livestock producer organizations, representing some 40 different agricultural groups, met with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and several other senior Bush Administration officials to discuss the proposed transfer of APHIS, expressing that some routine animal and plant health programs administered by APHIS have little to do with homeland security and may not receive the attention they get now.
American children of today were termed “the fattest generation ever” in a Los Angeles Times article earlier this month. The American Heart Association endorses “lifestyle training” to combat the risk of heart disease later in life. Given that children’s obesity rates have doubled in the past twenty years, it seems that their developing heart disease at an earlier age than their parents’ generation seems to be a forgone conclusion.
USDA purported that “prevention of diet related illness can be achieved through increased consumption of healthful foods” in its newsletter, The Center, saving the U.S. an estimated $117 billion in health care costs associated with obesity. Fewer than half of our nation’s population achieves the recommended daily allowances of the healthful foods USDA suggests. Our penchant for snacking was highlighted in a recent article in MeatNews.com, which disclosed that the rise of the snacking phenomenon, primarily confectionary products, biscuits, cakes and the like, is now fairly well documented on an international scale. These snacks are a few thousand calories from the healthful foods such as fruits and vegetables USDA urges Americans to eat.
Data suggests that the tide of obesity is not solely common to the U.S., or only to its children. The Wall Street Journal ascribes the combination of a high calorie diet and sedentary behavior as the fuel of the epidemic of fat throughout the world. In fact, the article intimated that on every continent of the globe, even including regions where malnutrition is rife, the number of people who are overweight or obese is rising alarmingly. What we are seeing in our children is the manifestation of some of our modern changes – the rising availability of high-calorie diets coupled with decreasing levels of exertion. One “lifestyle training” recommendation from the Journal of the American Heart Association is that “parents should be role models in their own eating habits and lifestyles.”