NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
January 22, 2001
Not only was it a busy last week for the Clinton Administration, it was a busy first day for the Bush Administration. Clinton’s final act was a sweeping series of regualtory moves, which the incoming president immediately moved to block. January 20, Inauguration Day, the White House issued a memorandum to the Heads and Acting Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies setting forth the plan for managing the federal regulatory process at the outset of the new Administration. In essence, no proposal or final regulation is to be sent to the Federal Register (except for urgent or emergency situations), until the department or agency head has approved it. From the meat industry’s perspective, the following initiatives are at issue:
The proposed rule requiring meat and poultry processors to conduct environmental testing for Listeria, or institute HACCP controls for L. monocytogenes, and establish food safety performance standards for illness-causing bacteria in ready-to-eat meat and poultry products. This is another major food safety rule published without consultation with the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, but it is subject to the moratorium.
Secretary Glickman named members to the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. The thirty-member committee has seven food industry representatives, including Dane Bernard from National Food Processors Association, Skip Seward from McDonald’s, Bill Sperber from Cargill, Dave Theno from Jack-in-the Box and Bruce Tompkin from ConAgra Refrigerated food. There are two representatives from state public health agencies, 11 representatives from federal agencies, four from Academia, 3 from medical organizations, one Canadian, and two others. It is not confirmed at NMA press time whether the appointments are subject to the moratorium.
Secretary Glickman named members to the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection. The Committee will now include: three persons from academia, including Dr. Elsa Murano, a distinguished microbiologist with TAMU; Five industry representatives, none of whom either directly or through an organization represent major beef slaughter operations; four consumer representatives, including renewals for Nancy Donley of STOP and Carol Foreman of CFA, and five state program representatives. Again, it is not known whether the appointments are subject to the moratorium.
The Secretary announced the failure of the pork referendum – reported here last week. Pork producers have secured a Temporary Restraining Order against the USDA in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan to stop USDA from closing down the check-off. The Secretary also announced the results of the audit of the petition signatures submitted by the Livestock Marketing Association requesting a beef referendum. AMS was put into a fast forward mode on this issue under somewhat bizarre circumstances. The fact that the department waited for over a year to move, then suddenly hustled through a verification audit by mail and telephone during the holiday season, has left questions in the minds of thousands of petitioners about the results.
On his last morning, Secretary Glickman signed off on a proposed regulation to deny USDA grading to imported carcasses, even though they meet all the presentation conditions set forth in the regulations. This proposal is subject to the moratorium.
And finally, a regulatory moratorium has put implementation of Mandatory Price Reporting, due to be implemented January 30, on hold for 60 days.
An article titled “Beef Wars,” written by Winkler Wienburg, a medical doctor specializing in infectious disease and published in the January/February 2001 issue of The Washington Monthly, may mark the beginnings of a backlash against unscientific policies that have led to plant closures, lost jobs and ended businesses. Describing the events surrounding the Atlanta, GA water park outbreak of 1998 and the recall at Bauer Meat, Wienburg concludes that “unlike millions of pounds of recalled beef, public service announcements don’t give USDA much to point to when kids are getting sick and their parents are demanding action. And it certainly doesn’t win big budget increases from Congress. But until science catches up with our demands for safer food, education is the best weapon we’ve got.” Issues of The Washington Monthly can be ordered for $5, mail requests (include month and year of desired issue) to 1611 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009; or e-mail [email protected].
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced January 19 that it was proposing to discontinue the official grading of imported beef, lamb, veal, and calf carcasses. Comments received on an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the issue expressed concern that applying the USDA grade shield to imported meat products confuses consumers about the origin of those products. The proposal will appear in a future issue of the Federal Register. Additional information may be obtained from, Larry R. Meadows, Chief, Meat Grading and Certification Branch, AMS Livestock and Seed Program, at (202) 720-1113 or e-mail [email protected].
McDonald’s Corp has introduced 40 new items on its U.S. menu, a mere 13 of which are beef items. The new menu, named the New Tastes Menu, is heavy on pork items like bacon-lettuce-tomato and McRib sandwiches and chicken sandwiches laced with bacon. “There is no move away from beef or hamburgers,” said McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker. “We are and have been for a long time expanding choices for our customers.” Todd Duvick, food industry analyst with Bank of America, told the Associated Press that the main impetus for the new menu was likely to prepare for expected shifts in consumer eating-out habits if a slowing economy shrinks their income. A slowdown may turn people away from pricier restaurants and back to the lower-priced convenient foods that McDonald's serves. The diverse new “rotating” menu would better serve those customers trying to stretch their dollar, said Duvick.
In reporting the buys earlier this month, USDA made a special note to contractors to be advised “that shippers are being told by warehouse receiving agents they must break down pallets. This is not correct. [Food Nutrition Service] instructions 709-5 … states it is the consignees responsibility for unloading pallets.” They went on to report that while a consignee may request help from a driver, and that such an added service is not forbidden, the drivers are not required by law or contract to perform any restacking or other services. It isn’t made clear whether those doing the demanding were unscrupulous or merely misinformed, however it is far too easy to imagine them coercing a poor guy with a weak back into some heavy lifting by claiming it’s in the book. “Sorry, pal, the regs say ya gotta. I’d love to help out and all, but…”
Every three years, six U.S. meat associations, including NMA, combine to co-sponsor an educational visit to the world’s largest meat trades fair, the IFFA, in Frankfurt, Germany.
May 17-27, 2001
Contact NMA at (510) 763-1533 for more information. And make sure, when you sign up that you tell them you’re with National Meat Association.
Since September, the price of cattle has gone up more than 10 cents a pound. It's now 80 cents a pound on the mercantile exchange. The record high is 86 cents – just six cents difference. What is the reason for the increase? In cold, wet weather, cows eat more and move less, taking them longer to beef up for market and for much of the country this has been a cold, cold winter. Continued strong demand for Choice beef and a sharp decline in grading have been key factors in the weather-induced rally, Cattle Buyers Weekly reports today. Packers are expected to cut kills this week to ration beef supplies, because live cattle prices are not going to dip for several weeks and may even go higher if winter storms continue.
The International Livestock Congress (ILC) will be meeting February 21-23 in Houston, Texas. A distinguished group of participants from the United States and abroad will address a new legislation initiative to replace the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The ILC provides not only a “think tank” environment to discuss such change, but also an opportunity to network with beef industry leaders. For more information contact the ILC at (713) 794-9720. NMA also has a limited number of ILC registration fliers that you may obtain by sending a 9x12 inch or larger self-addressed, stamped (55˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West.
A company named Rutan Research (www.methane-gas.com), which has been involved with the conversion of manure to methane gas for over 30 years, has launched an imitative to collect animal waste for energy production. Californians now involved in an energy crisis should take particular note when the company says, “Sewage plants utilizing the process of anaerobic fermentation have been turning human manure into natural gas for over 100 years. So why do we not use this process with animal manure?”
Deputy Administrator for Field Operations issued a memo last week to inspection personnel and slaughter facilities to reemphasize the importance of monitoring and enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act. FSIS personnel will be conducting in-plant correlation activities in the top 100 cull-cow slaughter establishments to assure that humane slaughter methods are being employed. To have a copy of the memo faxed to your contact Jeremy Russell at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected]
As of January 19 the AMS sampling program for commodity beef has tested 95,761,347 pounds of ground beef from 16 vendors. Of the 1,059 tests performed, there were 9 failures for E. coli O157:H7 (a 0.85% failure rate) and 56 failures for Salmonella (a 5.29% failure rate). There were 37 failures of other microbial tests for a total of 102 failures and 7,480,916 pounds rejected.
A report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group which advocates lower levels of drug use in livestock, says that antibiotics are being 40% higher in pigs, cows and chickens than has been revealed by the livestock industry. A trade group representing drug makers has, however, disputed the findings.
Meanwhile, the full-time raising of dairy cattle for use in the pharmaceutical industry is spreading. Called “pharming,” the practice sells the milk from cows that are raised from genetically altered embryos. By extracting proteins from the cows’ milk, pharmaceutical manufacturers could produce medicines much more cheaply and in much larger quantities than by using traditional laboratory techniques, the San Francisco Chronicle reported 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
January 22, 2001
In a special session following the Inauguration ceremony on Saturday, January 20 the Senate confirmed the appointment of Anne Veneman as Secretary of Agriculture with overwhelming support. “Ms. Veneman brings with her a strong record of experience, having served as the first woman to head California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and the first woman to hold the post of Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) at a previous Senate confirmation hearing.
Asked about her plans for food safety, Veneman said that her record “speaks for itself” and that it is important for various agencies to work together. She did vow to use antitrust laws “to the maximum degree,” to prevent harmful agribusiness mergers and help farmers get a fair price from giant food processors. Veneman said she supported “very strong enforcement of the trade laws we have on the books” against unfair imports. Trade barriers to U.S. exports must be dismantled too, she said.
USDA RELEASES Listeria RISK ASSESSMENT
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service last week released a draft risk assessment of the potential relative risk of listeriosis from eating certain ready-to-eat foods, as well as an Action Plan designed to reduce the risk of foodborne illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes. According to the government agencies, only 4 to 8 cases per 1 million people in North America and Western Europe contract listeriosis. They warned that eating certain foods such as soft cheeses, pate, meat spreads and smoked seafood can increase the risk of contracting the illness. Consumers can lower their risk of contracting a potentially deadly foodborne illness by avoiding unpasteurized foods, cooking food to temperatures high enough to kill the bacteria and cleaning kitchen counters and cutting boards thoroughly. Nothing revelatory here. The risk assessment reinforces past conclusions that foodborne listeriosis is a moderately rare although severe disease. Nevertheless, the Agencies have been charged with a 50% reduction of the number of Listeria related illnesses by 2005, five years ahead of the previously established Healthy People 2010 target.
While most the best protections are to be afforded at the time of preparation, only one out of eight bullet points in the Action Plan focuses on this area. Instead the plan states the Agencies will provide guidance for those that manufacture or prepare ready-to-eat foods, provide training or technical assistance for industry and food safety regulatory employees, redirect enforcement and regulatory strategies including microbial product sampling, propose new regulations and revisions to existing regulations, enhance disease surveillance and outbreak response, enhance control measures for Listeria monocytogenes at retail/delis, and conduct additional research. The final bullet point is to enhance consumer and health care provider information and education efforts.
A Federal Register Notice was published January 19, 2001; written comments will be received until March 20, 2001 You can visit the Listeria Risk Assessment and Action Plan online at http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~news/whatsnew.html.
BEEF CHECKOFF CALL REJECTED
USDA announced January 17 that not enough valid petitions were received to require a referendum on the beef checkoff. Pricewaterhouse Coopers, who reviewed the petitions, said that no more than 83,464 petitions were valid. This is significantly less than the 107,883 petitions (84.3%) necessary to call for a referendum. “Although the number of petitions submitted to USDA is not sufficient to trigger a referendum, thousands of beef producers have clearly signaled their concern over the beef checkoff program,” said USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Kathleen A. Merrigan. The Livestock Marketing Association, the petition’s strongest proponent, called the validation process grossly flawed and legally improper.
One of the main arguments against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s National Ergonomics Standard suffered a blow last week with the report of a long-awaited study by the National Academy of Sciences. The study found that work-related repetitive-stress injuries do in fact impose a significant economic burden as proponents of the standard have argued. The study stated they account for an estimated $50 billion a year in compensation costs, lost wages and lost productivity. The study also said there was a “clear relationship” between such activities as heavy lifting or repetitive movement and the occurrence of injuries such as back strains and carpal-tunnel syndrome. Not everyone however agrees with Representative George Miller (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, who told the Wall Street Journal that “the NAS study clearly and unambiguously concludes that there is substantial scientific justification for the ergonomics regulation sought by the Clinton administration.” However, even Representative Cass Ballenger (R-NC), who is also of the House Education and Workforce Committee and calls the regulation “one of the most expensive government standards ever,” was forced to concede that the report “probably makes our argument harder.” According to the Wall Street Journal both supporters and opponents are bracing for a protracted battle over the rules.
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman wrote NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow just days before his leave of office to thank her for a September 8 letter petitioning the USDA to promulgate regulations for a “Beef: Made in the USA” labeling program. He noted in his letter that USDA has initiated such a rulemaking action and that it should be published in the Federal Register shortly. He also encouraged her to “share your views and concerns with USDA on issues defining cattle and products of the United States during the rulemaking process.” Similar letters were sent to the other cosigners of the petition.
On January 18, 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a proposed rule mandating premarket notice for bioengineered foods and recommending presubmission consultation with FDA for such foods. The FDA also published a notice announcing the availability of a draft guidance for industry entitled “Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering.” Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted to FDA no later than April 3, 2001; comments on the draft guidance must be submitted no later than March 19, 2001 to be considered in preparing a revised guidance document.
Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations states that each employer shall post in a conspicuous location an annual summary of occupational injuries and illnesses, consisting of totals from Cal/OSHA form 200, for each establishment. This must be done by February 1.