NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Kiran Kernellu
September 9, 2002
Brand consciousness and name recognition have taken big hits with all of the recent corporate scandals. WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, Sunbeam and even Martha Stewart are recent examples of just why a company might not want to pin all of its marketing around a single, well-known name. Just last week, NMA’s Marketing Update spoke to the issue of Tyson-IBP’s decision to abandon the much-promoted Thomas E. Wilson brand name for beef in favor of putting it all under Tyson’s name, which has powerfully strong links to chicken. A recent Northern California experience, not on the scale of the mega players, may be instructive!
The San Francisco Chronicle reported results of a taste panel’s views of sliced Italian salami in July. Of five products tasted (San Francisco, Columbus, Citterio, Gallo and Applegate Farms), the first two made it into The Chronicle’s Taster’s Choice Hall of Fame, with scores over 80 points. However, the sponsor of the Taster’s Choice column, which runs every week, was surprised at the barrage of responses from readers questioning why she had not included one of the local brands, Molinari.
So, in September, the results of another taste test were run on whole dry salami, rather than the sliced product. In this second panel, Molinari made it into the Taster’s Hall of Fame with a score over 80, and also rated were San Francisco, Ticino and Renaissance.
Both San Francisco Sausage and Molinari are long-time members of NMA. We think highly of both their products, and indeed the competitive products of other members producing this particularly fine product, and eat them every chance we get! The interesting marketing quirk is that in the second panel, the three other products are all made by San Francisco Sausage Co. In the first panel, two were made by San Francisco Sausage Co. Clearly, they have designed products to meet different marketing niches. Both firms score highly in the market area that is famous for this product that Molinari was making before the turn of the 20th century!
FOOD SAFETY MONTH
September marks FSIS’ ninth annual National Food Safety Education Month (NFSEM). 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. "American consumers today are more aware of food safety issues than they were in the past, but research shows consumers have more to learn," said Elsa Murano, under secretary for food safety. "We need to be aggressive with our food safety education programs to continue the reductions in foodborne illnesses we've already seen." Murano said FoodNet 2002 data on foodborne illness shows a 23% overall decrease for seven bacterial foodborne illnesses since 1996, the result of a more educated public as well as improvements in the meat and poultry inspection system.
Health consciousness has hit the mainstream and the biggest sign of this is that McDonald’s has jumped on the healthy bandwagon. The New York Times reported that McDonald’s announced it was “reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fatty acids in its French fries and other fried foods.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) applauded McDonald’s decision by saying, “It is a good step forward toward reducing the artery-clogging fat in fried foods and helping Americans to reduce their risk of heart disease. Other restaurants and manufacturers of processed foods should take steps to reduce trans fat.”
In case you were wondering if this sounds a little familiar, it does. In 1990 McDonald’s stopped using beef tallow, which reportedly contained more saturated beef fat per ounce than a McDonald's hamburger. This was mostly due to a lawsuit by vegetarians and Hindus who claimed that the use of beef tallow in the French fries had not been disclosed. This current development comes in the wake of the FDA announcing that they are going to require food manufacturers to list trans fats on food labels.
Last week’s Lean Trimmings contained an article about corporate campaigns, and this week the effects of one are on display. CSPI has been working on McDonald’s and similar businesses for over ten years to influence the practices of the fast food industry. This time they helped to affect policy change through the FDA. The result is shifts within the business world that will no doubt cause other fast-food companies like Burger King and Wendy’s to look for ways to cut trans fats out of their foods.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. If McDonald’s can cut some fat out of its fries and keep its profit margin up, it probably should. But there is a bigger picture here that is disturbing. Put aside the reasons why CSPI wants change, namely, reasons the public is not privy to. These developments, along with lawsuits claiming the fast food industry made a man obese, transfer the blame of unhealthy lifestyles from the individual to a corporate entity. Less fat in French fries may be good, but it will never be healthy to eat a Super-Size order of French fries every day of the week!
People like the taste of hamburgers and French fries and consider them a convenient, readily available food when they are hungry. They eat them despite the puritanical criticisms leveled by CSPI et al. Indeed, there is a pattern of behavior by the critics that people are incompetent to make their own lifestyle choices. In their zealous effort to restrict consumer choice, these same critics are moving the blame for the ills of society to manufacturers of products, especially those with deep pockets, so that they can wring settlements to enrich their further efforts to further restrict consumer choice in the marketplace. It’s a vicious cycle. Visit the Center for Consumer Freedom’s website at http://www.consumerfreedom.com/ for more on this topic.
Alaniz and Schraeder provided guidance at the Workplace Issues Committee meeting at NMA’s Summer Board Meeting and Conference, focusing on dealing with Social Security mismatch letters, among other issues. It seems that a wave of them have been dispersed recently, and have caused some trepidation in our industry. While a mismatch is of concern, it’s ultimately the worker’s responsibility to see that the error is righted.
If your company has inadvertently reported incorrect information to the Social Security Administration (SSA), prepare a W-2c with the corrected information. If, however, there is indeed a mismatch, you can verify eligibility using the employee’s Social Security (SS) card. Discrepancies at this next stage require notification to employees, who must then rectify the situation with the SSA. Notification should be verbal and written, and should give the employee a reasonable amount of time to attend to the matter, generally 30 to 90 days. It’s advisable to have the employee sign off as having received the notice, and retain this document as proof of delivery.
After the designated correction period has lapsed without resolution, and if the employee originally used the SS card as eligibility, refer to the I-9 form, Section 2, for a list of other acceptable proof of eligibility documents to complete re-verification. Retain the second I-9 with the original. If the employee is unable to provide proof of work authorization, termination is applicable, as this may be deemed a knowing violation of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) prohibitions against employing unauthorized aliens. Similar cases have shown this to be INS’ stance on this circumstance, though this is a gray area in the law. You should then provide SSA with a list of affected employees who have left the company, as well as all pertinent information, such as name changes, and corrected names and Social Security numbers, for each.
Social Security mismatch letters are generally not the precursors to an INS raid. In recent years, there have been well-publicized raids at large companies in the meat industry, which are likely not too far buried in our memories. But since the “knowingly” hired standard is difficult to prove anyway, proper employer documentation for mismatch occurrences will certainly show due diligence. In a report in Meat & Poultry magazine, Jerry Heinauer, INS district director in Omaha, NE said, “We would be perfectly happy never to go into another meatpacking plant as long as the employers are hiring people here lawfully and authorized to work. We’d rather dedicate our resource[s] in other directions.” The meat industry would prefer to see them go elsewhere, too!
For a copy of the guidance provided at the meeting, please contact Kiran Kernellu at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected].
Associated Press reported that a Montana fishing guide who hunted and occasionally ate wild game has died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Medical experts don’t believe that Gary Padgham, 50, died from eating elk infected with Chronic Wasting disease (CWD), though Montana did have one infected elk herd. No such case has ever been reported in the United States, and scientists have no evidence that eating infected elk and deer can kill people. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease also strikes one in a million people for no apparent reason. Those dying because of bad meat had a median age of 28, according to the CDC while those dying of the non-meat variant had a median age of 68. The disease can lie dormant in victims for years, but will eventually open fatal holes in the brains of victims, who lose motor skills and become delusional. Results from the an autopsy being conducted at the University of California at San Francisco, the nation's top Creutzfeldt-Jakob research center, are weeks away. See the August 12, 2002 Lean
Trimmings for more information about CJD and CWD.
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
September 9, 2002
POLITICS & RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGNS
NMA's Washington-based Government Relations Liaison, Shawna Thomas, recently visited Eric Juzenas, the Agricultural Aide to Senator Tom Harkin. Harkin is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and has spear-headed legislation (see the August 19, 2002 Lean Trimmings for more information) that would so punish packers and processors of raw meat that it threatens their very survival and would cause even greater industry consolidation.
Shawna has told us that the Senator's staff reviews NMA's Lean Trimmings and Herd on the Hill. He even told Shawna that it is one of the more interesting publications that he receives. He took some exception at a recent reported item that the Senator has refused to meet with NMA to discuss his legislative objectives, pointing out that the staff is always ready to do so. He explained that the Senator is campaigning for re-election in Iowa at every possible moment and does have a full schedule.
Shawna explained to Mr. Juzenas that its Iowa members, and indeed all its members, are very concerned about the Senator's intentions. He in turn suggested that NMA's Iowa members might want to approach the Senator during his frequent trips to the state during this busy campaign time.
NMA certainly encourages its Iowa members to make these contacts. Call Shawna Thomas at 202-518-6383 if you need some help to develop the message. Thanks to Shawna for contributing to this story.
USDA announced it is on schedule to implement the publishing of new country-of-origin (COOL) labels on meat, produce and fish by the September 30 deadline set forth in the Farm Bill. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) plans to publish a final proposal for the voluntary labels within the next two weeks. After the commentary period, the labels will be published on a voluntary system, which will become mandatory in two years.
Many in the industry feel that the COOL launch will be anything but smooth sailing. First, no funding was provided in the Farm Bill to implement COOL. Secondly, the label “exclusively born, raised and slaughtered” doesn’t address the issue of border-jumping livestock. Similarly, processors of ground beef will be hard-pressed to accurately label their products under the new law. According to Food Chemical News, “further complicating matters is the fact that the COOL law forbids the uses of a mandatory identification system to verify country-of-origin.” Imported cattle are accompanied by an Animal Plant Health Inspection Service certificate attesting to the good health of the animal, but that doesn’t clearly show country-of-origin. Washington-based lawyer for Eastern Meat Packers Association (EMPA), Robert Hibbert, wrote in Meat Processing “[there is] a potential silver lining to this COOL cloud. The most appropriate mechanism for insuring compliance for livestock products would seem, inevitably, to involve the establishment of some type of mandatory livestock identity and traceback system.” Traceback is specifically prohibited in the Farm Bill. COOL will sail on September 30, but the channels are analogous to the Bermuda Triangle.
On August 28, 2002 the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) held a public meeting to review and discuss validation of food hygiene control measures, defining the term “pasteurization,” the new charge regarding Campylobacter, criteria for shelf-life, and microbiological performance standards for raw meat and poultry products. This briefly summarizes the meeting. Contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] for a full summary of the meeting.
Dr. Garrett then discussed the “Murano and Wachsmuth” Questions. Specifically, in November of 2001, before the January 2002 meeting of the NACMCF, Elsa Murano, Under Secretary for Food Safety, and Kaye Wachsmuth, former Deputy Administrator, Office of Public Health and Science, asked for NACMCF’s opinion on how the Salmonella performance standards are working, whether the standards are helping to ensure the safety of the nation’s meat and poultry supply, whether there are more effective alternatives to these performance standards, and, if there are, what those alternatives would be. The subcommittee recommended that FSIS work in collaboration with CDC to measure the impact of the performance standards for raw meat and poultry on salmonellosis and other relevant enteric diseases.
Other recommendations of the subcommittee include the following: that FSIS sponsor an analysis to determine the steps in the food chain where new technologies could cause major reductions in the frequency of enteric pathogens; that sponsoring agencies provide to stakeholders a summary of the results from ongoing food safety research pertinent to this subject; that ARS, CSREES, and industry conduct more research on the farm/feedlot level to develop effective control measures and reduce the level of enteric pathogens on live animals entering the plant; that FSIS reevaluate the existing policy regarding the degree to which carcass surfaces can be denatured by heat or other treatments; that FSIS further investigate decontamination procedures and determine if existing treatments can be further enhanced; and that FSIS request ARS, CSREES, and industry enhance technology transfer of effective approved treatments from the laboratory to commercial applications.
Public Comment Period: The floor was then opened to public comment. One member of the audience expressed displeasure over E.coli sampling done by facilities—regulation does not prevent companies from doing multiple tests and then reporting best result. This member of the audience also was surprised to hear that the NACMCF found that the baseline study for Salmonella performance standards in raw meat and poultry products was not statistically valid. This commenter stated that FSIS press releases and other reports stated that there is a decrease in the national prevalence of Salmonella, but because of the bias mentioned in the baseline studies, the FSIS press release is not accurate and the public is getting a different take on what is really happening.
Another member of the audience stated that we all share a common goal: protecting public health and safety. This audience member wants the highest performance standards instituted without regard to regionality and seasonality. Furthermore, because science is an ongoing process, FSIS should institute programs and activities based upon the best available science and then alter all programs and activities as the science changes.