NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612

(510) 763-1533 Fax (510) 763-6186 h Email Address: [email protected] h

Edited by Kiran Kernellu

September 30, 2002




FSIS announced a series of new measures to reduce the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 contamination of raw ground beef. These new measures, which FSIS intends to publish as a Federal Register Notice in the near future, are ostensibly based on recent information indicating that E. coli O157:H7 is more prevalent than was previously thought. Although the press release and Backgrounder do not explicitly state when these new measures will become effective, they imply that the new measures will become effective upon publication of the Notice in the Federal Register. The new measures include the following:


·                                                 Requiring that beef slaughter and grinding plants acknowledge that E. coli O157:H7 is a hazard reasonably likely to occur in their operations, unless they can show otherwise;


·                                                 Requiring beef slaughter and grinding plants to re-examine the adequacy of current controls, taking into consideration whether their raw beef products have previously tested positive for the pathogen in either FSIS or industry testing. If, based on this analysis, the establishment determines that E. coli O157:H7 is a hazard reasonably likely to occur, then one or more critical control points (CCPs) designed to prevent contamination must be incorporated by the establishment or by its suppliers. Although FSIS indicates that grinding establishments may choose to maintain purchasing specifications that require that their suppliers establish one or more critical control points to address E. coli O157:H7, FSIS does recommend that grinders determine whether critical control points are also necessary in their own operations.


·                                                 Requiring establishments to conduct on-going verification activities, which may include microbiological testing, to ensure that their CCPs are adequately addressing the pathogen or that the establishment’s purchasing specifications are preventing the pathogen from entering the facility. According to the FSIS Backgrounder, large, small, and very small plants must also conduct reassessments within 60, 120, and 180 days, respectively, of publication of the Notice in the Federal Register.


·                                                 Conducting on-going verification activities to ensure that CCPs are adequately addressing E. coli O157:H7 or that purchase specifications are preventing the pathogen from entering the facility.


·                                                 Eliminating current exemptions from FSIS microbiological testing, resulting in random testing of all beef grinding operations by FSIS personnel. FSIS will also consider expanding its testing program to include trimmings and carcasses in addition to ground beef; and


·                                                 Issuing guidance to grinding facilities regarding issues such as: (1) increased plant testing for the pathogen, (2) conducting reassessment of HACCP plans, (3) avoiding mixing product from different suppliers to reduce the chance of cross contamination and facilitate traceback investigations, and (4) using ingredients and sources of radiation to reduce microorganisms on carcasses, ground beef, and beef trimmings.


The press release and background information concerning this matter are accessible at, respectively,, and


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Created by the foodservice industry in 1995, National Food Safety Education Month (NFSEM) is widely supported by federal, state and local agencies, the food industry and consumer
organizations. This year's NFSEM theme is Four Steps to Food Safety. The goal is to communicate to consumers that each of the messages highlighted during the last four years, Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill, are equally important and necessary to keep food safe. Although Food Safety Month is nearly over, let us not forget the tenets.


1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often. Wash hands with soap and water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers or handling pets.

2. Separate: Don't cross-contaminate. Separate raw meat and poultry from other foods. Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw
meat or poultry.

3. Cook: Cook to proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked food.

4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within two hours, or within one hour if the outside
temperature is above 90 °F. Thaw food in the refrigerator.





FSIS recently signed partnership cooperative agreements with 11 states to fund food safety education projects. These cooperative agreements for animal and egg producers concentrate on preventive measures and cover such topics as drug residues and biosecurity. The agreements, which were designed following the adoption of HACCP, are intended to provide guidance to food animal producers, veterinarians, public health personnel, and others engaged in ensuring food safety at the production level. A total of $280,000 was provided to Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.




The American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods have joined forces to promote proper food-handling procedures. The “It’s in Your Hands” program highlights common food-handling violations. Following are some best practices for safe food-handling:

v                              Wash hands in warm, soapy water before, during and after meal preparation for at least 20 seconds. Wash front and back, up to the wrist. Don’t forget to wash between fingers.

v                              Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods. Boards should be washed in hot, soapy water after each use. Never use cutting boards that have cracks, crevices and a large amount of knife marks.

v                              Cook meat to an internal temperature of 160º F. Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 170º F. Reheat hotdogs to an internal temperature of 160º F. The only reliable gauge of internal temperature is a meat thermometer.

v                              Always refrigerate foods promptly. Set refrigerator temperature below 40º F and use a refrigerator thermometer to verify temperature.


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Food and the Environment: The Costs, Benefits, and Consequences of Modern Food Production


The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and the Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism co-sponsored a conference entitled “Food and the Environment: The Costs, Benefits, and Consequences of Modern Food Production” September 23-26 to discuss food safety, among other issues.


NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow spoke on the panel, “Keeping Meat Safe,” along with Dr. Elsa Murano, USDA undersecretary and Steve Grover, vice president for Health and Safety, National Restaurant Association on Wednesday, September 25. Orville Schell, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism served as moderator of the panel that addressed noted journalists. Mucklow reiterated the industry message that food safety is the primary goal. “Our repeat business is predicated on it,” she said to the attendees. “Putting safe meat on the tables of Americans is the highest priority for the meat industry. It’s critical to our continued business survival, so we have a self-preservation instinct in ensuring its safety.” Mucklow stressed the personal commitment of owners, managers and workers. “Unfortunately, all too often, [the] industry is the subject of a bad or dirty meat story, not one where real people, owners, managers and workers, are doing their very best to put out a healthy, safe product for American consumers,” she said.


“The hunt has been on for a silver bullet to destroy pathogens,” she stated. “The surest way to ensure that any pathogens smart enough to evade all the other hurdles are destroyed is to heat the product to 160º F. That means cooking it thoroughly,” Mucklow said. Dr. Murano noted in her presentation that consumers tend to undercook their meat. In addition to food safety education, recent refinements to HACCP are exemplary of food safety activities designed to protect consumers.


All three panelists emphasized their commitment to HACCP. Dr. Murano shared encouraging statistics that have come about with HACCP in place, such as CDC data attesting to decreases in foodborne illness, better practices overall, and a decrease in incidences of Salmonella. She noted that HACCP “failures” account for the majority of enforcement action for the period 1999-2001, signifying that the program is working. She observed that the companies with samples that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 and had recalls this year had passed the Salmonella standard. The Salmonella standard is not a sufficient indicator of safety, but HACCP has served to fill the gap. This is why there have been more recalls with HACCP. Finally, Dr. Murano noted that seafood and fresh produce are the most common source of foodborne illness. Meat is the least common source of foodborne illness! This is a story that journalists haven’t yet told.


Sunday, MARCH 2- Wednesday, March 5, 2003



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The National Animal Health Emergency Response Plan (NAHERP) For An Outbreak of Foot-And-Mouth Disease or Other Highly Contagious Animal Diseases is available in its current draft form. It is the second version of the plan, formerly know as the Federal Emergency Response Plan for an Outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease or Other Highly Contagious Diseases. After a reasonable amount of time for additional comments, an updated version of the NAHERP will be posted to the Veterinary Services' web page for easy access by interested parties. This plan will continue to evolve as it is tested by national, regional, State, and local exercises. NMA members may request an electronic copy by contacting NMA at [email protected].




USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service released the summary report of meats graded for the month of August, 2002. For all quality-graded beef, Choice was 57.6%, up  from 57.5% in July. Select was 38.9%, down from 39.3% the previous month. And Prime was 3.5%, up from 3.1% in July. For a copy of the entire report which covers beef, lamb and mutton, NMA members send a self-addressed/stamped (37¢) envelope to Kiran Kernellu at NMA or visit it online at



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

September 30, 2002




Escherichia coli O157:H7, more familiarly known as E. coli O157:H7, is one of many microorganisms found in the intestinal tract of bovines and other animals. It is part of a large family of microorganisms in the gut of all animals, including people, that work as a part of the digestive system. Research shows that bovines can be carriers of E. coli O157:H7 and that they periodically shed it. It does not appear to affect bovines and there are no clinical signs to distinguish between one that is a carrier and another that is not. Further, from what we know, it is more likely to cause serious illness in humans with less fully developed immune systems, including young people, the elderly and people with immune-suppressed systems. It is likely, though not known absolutely from any test data, that normal healthy adults are relatively immune from its deadly consequences. In immuno compromised people and children, it literally eats its way through the wall of the intestine to which it attaches, and causes bloody diarrhea. It also produces a toxin which may cause hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and kidney failure.


The presence of E. coli O157:H7 in a sample of ground beef is not evidence of fecal material in the product. Unfortunately, many of those who speak publicly on this subject have suggested this often enough that people accept that if O157:H7 is present, then there must be fecal material present.  There are some USDA inspection personnel who even believe this! Fecal material is visible; bacteria are not visible. Water can be absolutely visibly clear, but it could contain invisible microorganisms, even E. coli O157:H7. Meat spoils because of bacteria that are present on its surface and it is present even in fresh meat that is visibly free of any contaminants.


E. coli O157:H7 is a living pathogenic bacteria that can survive away from its host and can attach itself to the surface of muscle, just like other spoilage bacteria.  It is not visible, and as recent scientific studies have shown, is much more likely to have originated from the hide of the animal than from fecal material. Interestingly, the greatest incidence levels of E.coli O157:H7 are seen in the summer time when problems of visible contaminants arriving with the livestock are the lowest. In the winter months, when visible contaminants on the livestock are at their highest, the incidence of E.coli O157:H7 is at its lowest. This suggests lack of a definitive link between fecal material and pathogenic bacteria.


No one, including those in industry, wants visible or invisible contamination present on the meat that is sold and consumed. The point is, however, this deadly invisible pathogen is not evidence of fecal material left on the surface of carcasses by poor workmanship!




USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service was scheduled to release its voluntary guidelines to implement Country-of-Origin labeling, as mandated by the 2002 Farm Bill, today. At press time, NMA understands that the guidelines are in final clearance at the Secretary level. They are expected to be released in the next few days, and will be posted to the USDA web site as soon as they are available.




Recall information can be accessed at








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At the beginning of August, the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee asked for industry comments on a series of questions termed the Livestock Marketing Questionnaire. Our Government Relations Liaison, Shawna Thomas, put together the answers to these questions with the help of the companies that submitted responses. These answers along with a packet of supporting materials were offered to the House Agriculture Committee on Friday, September 20. The questions covered a wide range of issues including the definition of captive supply, the uses of vertical integration and mandatory price reporting.


NMA was happy to provide answers to these questions to the Agriculture Committee. The Committee’s questions demonstrate that Congress is listening to the concerns of the industry and that they are cognizant of their need for more information to make erudite decisions. Hopefully the answers provided can spur thoughtful discussion in the halls of the Capitol.


The task now is to make sure that the committee and others in Congress do not let these answers fall to the wayside. It isn’t enough to send out a questionnaire, a real dialogue must be developed from these answers. To achieve this end, NMA, as well as individual companies nationwide must politely and persistently ask to know what is being done with these questionnaires. Members in Congress want to know that their actions are not going unnoticed, so we must relay the fact that we are pleased with the steps they are taking so they will continue to take them. And we are.


The NMA would like to thank the companies that provided insight and answers to the questionnaire. Contact Shawna Thomas at [email protected] if you would like to peruse the materials NMA presented to the Agriculture Committee.




The Safe And Fair Enforcement and Recall for Meat, Poultry, and Food Act (SAFER Meat, Poultry, and Food Act), which was introduced on July 26, 2002 by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), is opposed by NMA and other trade organizations. The Food Safety Coalition is made up of the NMA, AMI, and other groups who understand a unified fight is a very powerful thing.


In our efforts to get others within the Senate to understand the problems with this bill we have been knocking on the doors of various members’ offices, sitting down with them and laying the facts on the table. The problematic nature of the SAFER Act of S. 2803 was outlined in the August 19, 2002 edition of Lean Trimmings. Among other things this bill would:


1. Require any person, other than the consumer, to report to the federal government any food that the person has reason to believe is adulterated or misbranded.


2. Authorize the federal government to order mandatory recall of any violative food upon receipt of such notice or by other means, if there is a reasonable probability that consumption of the food would present a threat to public health.


3. Authorize huge civil money penalties for violation of any federal rules; and


4. Authorize withdrawal of inspection from meat and poultry establishments upon a willful violation of more than one of even minor rules under the meat or poultry inspection acts.


Our Government Relations Liaison has participated in meetings with agriculture staff from various Senate offices, such as Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Though the general consensus on the Hill seems to be that the possibility of Harkin introducing this legislation into the Agriculture Appropriations bill at this time is slim because of the precedence of other issues such as Iraq and Homeland Security, there is a need to be diligent. NMA members are encouraged to contact their Senators and Congressional representatives. For more information on how to contact the legislators in your area, contact Shawna Thomas at [email protected].