NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
October 15, 2001
NMA hosted a teleconference last week on the increasingly important topic of “Biosecurity Systems for Meat and Poultry Plants.” Speakers included Dr. Elsa Murano, Undersecretary of Food Safety; Sharon Brooks, Olsson, Frank & Weeda; Dr. Richard Mikita of Kroll Associates; and, from Edelman Public Relations Worldwide: Daniel Puzo, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs Crisis Communication and Jere Sullivan, Executive V.P. & Deputy General Manager, Public Affairs Crisis Communication.
Dr. Murano addressed participants on the topic of USDA Biosecurity Activities. “Safeguarding the food supply is what the meat & poultry industry and USDA does,” she reminded the participants. However, in this unique time, a heightened awareness must be brought to the additional element of intentional contamination. She described how USDA is refreshing and reminding its inspectors to be vigilant in their duties.
As well as these frontline employees, USDA has engaged the Food Emergency Rapid Response and Evaluation Team (FERRET), a USDA working group that provides a vehicle for collaboration across USDA mission areas, and the Foodborne Outbreak Coordination Group (FORC-G), which Dr. Murano co-chairs and which provides an opportunity for various federal, state and local authorities to coordinate activities regarding foodborne disease outbreaks. She also said that USDA will be working closely with Governor Tom Ridge on Homeland Defense in the weeks and months to come and encouraged cooperation to coordinate plant security and develop industry-agency working group. Sharon Brooks next described USDA’s Biosecurity efforts in further detail, discussing the first USDA conference on the topic, which had been held last week.
Next Jere Sullivan addressed Crisis Communication (see “Biosecurity and Crisis Communication” on page 3). Dr. Mikita reminded participants to conduct a HACCP review and a full survey of security, including Human Resources. One of the most important areas is access, who can go where when. And finally, Dan Puzo communicated the troubles of dealing with media.
Based on the Biosecurity Teleconference, and other information currently being gathered, NMA will be putting together a further chapter to the crisis management manual it distributed to members earlier this year. While NMA does not anticipate any specific threats, members should be prepared to act proactively. It is important to understand possible threats, their source, safeguards against them, and, most importantly, know how to contain a situation in the event of an attack.
The teleconference also featured a group of questioners who teased general and specific crisis prevention information from the speakers. These questioners included, Lou Gast, C.E.O., HACCP Consulting Group L.L.C.; Fran Olivigni, Corporate QA/Manager, Schwan's; Vince DeGrado, Corporate Director of Technical Service, Rosen Meat Group; and Mike Cramer, V.P. Food Safety and Quality Control, Specialty Brands, Inc.
Daniel Puzo, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs Crisis Communication, at Edelman used the current Anthrax outbreak to emphasize a point during last week’s Biosecurity Teleconference (see page 1): Do not extrapolate. In dealing with the sudden appearance of Anthrax in Florida, where one person died, officials were too quick to downplay the possible intentional spreading of the dangerous disease. Now, with seven people found with the spores in Florida and a second infection and three confirmed exposures in New York, what officials called a coincidence has become a criminal investigation. In the future, the media may be less trustful of official statements. Puzo recommended not making any assumptions and telling media representatives only what you know to be factual.
Anthrax cases are extremely rare, especially those caused by inhalation (as was the one in Florida, but not the New York case, caused by a skin infection). Only 18 cases of Anthrax caused by inhalation were recorded in the whole of the last century, and none since 1978. Furthermore, not only is Anthrax rare, but, according to Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach health department, “there has never been a reported case of Anthrax exposure inside a building.” Nevertheless officials still are not calling the four cases of Anthrax a terrorist attack. FBI agent Hector Pesquera was quoted in the Oakland Tribune as saying that “this is not a time for premature conclusions and inaccurate reporting.”
Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) told the Wall Street Journal that federal officials have concluded that the Florida anthrax came from some sort of laboratory. That indicates to him “that there is absolute criminal intent,” he said. He added that there are “scores and scores” of Anthrax strains, and that some have been used in research labs for decades.
Researchers are attempting to source the Anthrax via DNA fingerprinting methods. “If that strain turns out to come from Iraq or is a former Soviet Union strain, all hell is going to break loose,” opined medical anthropologist Jeanne Guillemin, author of “Anthrax, the Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak.”
Meanwhile, scientists are hard at work on new treatments for the disease that could be used in combination with antibiotics. There are three ways to be infected by Anthrax, either you eat the spores, breath them or have it enter your skin through a cut or abrasion – it is not communicable. Inhalation is the most dangerous, being fatal in 90% of the cases. Officials have advised people to watch our for unusual forms of mail.
Jere Sullivan, Executive V.P. & Deputy General Manager, Public Affairs Crisis Communication, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide addressed Biosecurity and Crisis Communication in a special teleconference held last week by NMA (see page 1). Communication is one of the most important areas for dealing with any biosecurity threat. It is important to establish the following criteria for a crisis communication plant:
When communicating, Sullivan emphasized, make sure to point out that you are not in a risk mode, but rather are acting preventively. “You don’t want to frighten your community,” he said. “Instill confidence not panic.” One of the most effective ways to do this is by establishing a communication control center and training spokespeople to be factual and compassionate.
Sullivan also told attendees that Edelman has been surveying consumer attitude. Right now, Americans desire to “move on.” They want to go back to normal and they ask that companies which they patronize maintain production without major changes in marketing.
HEADS UP ON Bio-Terrorism
NMA is this week featuring a special Heads up for HACCP on Bio-Terrorism by Michael Cramer, Vice President Food Safety and Quality Assurance at Specialty Brands. Cramer discusses major risk areas and safety measures, as well as crisis management plans. There was never a time like this one for reassessing and careful planning. Cramer writes that, “as food processors, we must do our part to assure that confidence in our products is never an issue.” Our thanks to him for reminding us to be vigilant.
NMA Member Harris Ranch Beef Co. Beef Division Chairman David E. Wood has been selected by the California Chamber of Commerce and the Cow Palace Board of Directors as this year’s Livestock Man of the Year. The award will be presented November 1, during the Grand National Rodeo, Horse & Stock Show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA.
With all the happenings of the world, we need to focus back into our business and some of the enjoyments of life. To begin the process let’s think GOLF. Next year’s tournament will be held at the historic Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey, California. This ageless beauty, now more than 100 years old and the oldest course west of the Mississippi, offers an exceptional challenge to golfers of every skill level. Start creating your foursome and enjoy the event with your peers. NMA’s 56th Annual Convention is scheduled for February 20-23, 2002 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monterey, California. Mark your calendar now!
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
October 15, 2001
EXPECT AN AMENDMENT
As Lean Trimmings goes to its press deadline today, the Ag Appropriations Bill, and several others, are being held hostage in the U. S. Senate by the Judiciary Committee. Last year, when it came before the full Senate, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment to Ag Appropriations to virtually codify authority to remove inspection if a plant fails the USDA’s Salmonella performance standards. He is expected to make the same move again this year in the full debate of agriculture appropriations in the Senate. Such an amendment by the Senator who is now the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee, without his first scheduling committee hearings, is just pure politics! Reportedly, he is being encouraged by consumer organizations and others. NMA is strongly opposed to such a move. It fails the test of full and open policy debate. Major scientific entities – the National Academy of Sciences and the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria in Food – have yet to provide their input. And the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to rule in the Supreme vs. USDA within the next two months. This is a good time for NMA members to let their Senators know their views on this issue.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN AT THE DOOR
A new piece of legislation, H.R. 1605, known as the “Bono Amendment,” will if enacted mandate Country-of-Origin labeling on all perishable agricultural commodities, whether imported or domestically produced. The amendment provides an exemption from the labeling requirements for products that are prepared in a food establishment, sold or offered for sale at the food service establishment in “normal retail quantities,” and served to consumers at the food service establishment. Also, it defines labeling to include “a label, stamp, mark, placard, or other clear and visible sign” either on the product or at the final point of sale. Civil penalties for noncompliance are $1,000 for the first day of violation and $250 for each subsequent day. While the Bono Amendment is focused on fruits and vegetables, there is a possibility that the proposed requirements might also be expanded beyond the scope of perishable agricultural commodities as Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) may proposed a similar amendment for meat and poultry products. Again, NMA members may wish to let their Senators and Congressional Representatives know their views.
ALLIANCE FOR FOOD SAFETY
DASCHLE ANTHRAX SCARE
Anthrax was detected in a letter opened today in the office of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. Staffers exposed to the substance are being treated with antibiotics and the office was promptly quarantined. About the source of the spores, President Bush told reporters, “I wouldn’t put it past [Bin Laden] but we don’t have hard evidence yet.”
FSIS PUTS E. coli TEST RESULTS ON THE INTERNET
FSIS, currently providing positive test results from the E. coli O157:H7 microbiological testing program for raw ground beef on an annual basis on its web site, announced plans to also post positive test results as they are reported. Calling the move an effort to “spur industry to institute pathogen reduction and HACCP-associated verification programs,” FSIS will allow the public to access the data at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Ophs/ecoltest/ecpositives.htm.
NMA WRITES MARKETING UNDER SECRETARY
NMA Director of Technical Services Teresa Frey wrote Bill Hawks, Under Secretary, Marketing & Regulatory Affairs, last week on behalf of NMA to “express concern and opposition to the removal of the adjusted base price (ABP) calculation from the daily USDA National Carlot Pork Report.” Many of the over 300 firms who have a USDA grant of inspection that NMA represents rely heavily on the ABP calculation and its discontinuation would hinder their ability to competitively price their products. “NMA understands that the ABP does not reflect any actual trades and that it is often a very thin market,” wrote Frey. “It is, however, a very useful tool as a calculated base or index. NMA is concerned that the removal of this base or index will create an unfair situation for many small processors.” Frey added later that “in fact, the ABP for pork parallels the cut our value for beef in that it provides a computed value that is calculated on known values according to a USDA-developed formula that is extraordinarily useful to users of the reports.” If necessary, NMA is prepared to provide expanded information on this issue to the agency or follow up on its position.
HEARINGS & BILLS FOCUS ON FOOD SAFETY
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) reported in their e-News on various Committee meetings new or updated bills to address agroterrorism and food safety issues that were introduced last week.
House Energy and Commerce ranking member Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Health Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) introduced the “Imported Food Safety Act” to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over imported food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, that is comparable to the authority USDA already has for imported meat and poultry. The legislation also creates a user fee of not more than $20 per “line item” of imported food. The $56 million per year that would be generated would be used to fund increased border inspections and research and development of real time tests for detection of microbial and pesticide contamination. The bill also mandates country-of-origin labeling of imported food subject to FDA regulation, at the point such food is offered for retail sale, but restaurants and other prepared-food service establishments would be exempted.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Oversight Subcommittee, held a hearing aimed at strengthening federal laws on food safety. Durbin reintroduced legislation that would consolidate all food safety responsibilities into a single, independent agency, a move opposed by the industry and others who appreciate the complexity of food safety issues. The hearing focused on a new Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, titled “Food Safety and Security: Fundamental Changes Needed to Ensure Safe Food,” available from the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov/.
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) has outlined plans to introduce a far-reaching response to threats of terrorism against America's agriculture industry called “The Bio-Security Act.” The legislation calls for spending of about $1.1 billion next year and about $271,000 million in each of the next 10 years in a crash program to modernize USDA facilities, implement stiff security procedures, fund a rapid response strategy through a consortium of top universities, as well as grants to top agriculture universities and researchers across the nation to thwart bio-warfare.