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 Jeremy Russell

October 22, 2001


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NMA’s Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow and Associated Director Etta Reyes visited the Worldwide Food Expo in Chicago last week. The impact of September 11 on attendees was clear, but many people there were getting back to business (although “normal” today is different from what it was). Suppliers make a huge investment to exhibit in shows like Food Expo and NMA hopes that they were rewarded by opportunities both to renew with many long time customers and to meet new ones.


Both Etta and Rosemary also attended the tribute to Joe Luter and Smithfield Foods by the National Provisioner on Thursday evening.




A panel of representatives from various segments of the industry met at the Friday General Session of the Worldwide Food Expo to discuss major issues of concern that will have some impact in the next 3-5 years. Panelists included Michael Engler of Cactus Feeders, Ted Fowler of Golden Corral Corp., Neil Genshaft of Fresh Mark, Joseph Hansen of United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Joseph Luter III of Smithfield Foods, Bo Manly of Premium Standard Farms, Kenneth Parnell of Wal-Mart and John Tyson of Tyson Foods.


Through the myriad of questions and answers, the panel left the audience with some of the following thoughts:  Extra measures, based on science rather than politics, are needed in food safety to minimize the risk of disease and infections; general labor cost has not increased in the last twenty years; mergers and acquisitions will continue, but companies with specialty or “niche” markets will survive; better animal handling will produce better quality meats; urban sprawl will limit farmlands, pressuring production; immigration and the law will be vital within an industry where minorities take the larger share of the work force; 50% of new product lines in restaurants came from the meat industry within the last ten years; industry needs to do a better job in countering “bad publicity” from adverse groups; and government and industry need to work together more closely than ever before to protect the integrity and safety of our food.




A report in The New England Journal of Medicine reached the popular press like a runaway fire last week, appearing in at least four different versions and reprinted widely. The report included three studies, one which found Salmonella on about 20% of samples of pork, ground beef and chicken taken in 1998; 84% of the bacteria found was resistant to at least one antibiotic. An editorial that accompanied the report in the Journal called the situation one of “grave concern” and said the studies add to growing evidence that animal drugs are putting humans at risk from resistant strains of bacteria. “The data speak for themselves,” wrote editor Dr. Sherwood Gorbach, a Tufts University infectious disease expert. The National Chicken Council said in its Washington Report this week that the studies had, despite the editorial statements of Gorbach, “failed to document any significant impact on humans.”


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Good food retail sales are being forecasted this year for the holiday season, but there may be fierce competition as well. Supermarket News noted last week that “while there is a general expectation that food retailers stand to benefit from cutbacks on travel and less meals eaten away from home, especially during the upcoming holiday season, the analysts noted that this could be offset by retailers cutting prices to attract newly bargain-conscious consumers.” One analyst interviewed for the article predicted an increase of food bought through supercenters and warehouse clubs, rather than grocery stores.




Japan’s Health Ministry has extended its Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) testing program to all cattle due to be processed into food. BSE testing began at 117 meat hygiene inspection centers nationwide on October 18 after inspectors were trained in new testing methods similar to those in use in Europe. According to Reuters, Japan slaughtered 1.27 million head in the 2000/2001 business year to March and the Japanese cattle population totals about 4.6 million. The recent move is clearly an attempt to stop the slashing of sales by panicky consumers. Japanese beef companies have also attempted to assuage customer fears. “From now on, we will gradually replace raw materials from cows with alternative ones to make our consumers feel more safe,” Nissin Food said in a notice on its website.




A single strain of E. coli (not E. coli O157:H7) has been implicated in outbreaks of urinary tract infections among women in California, Michigan and Minnesota. Because the germs are exactly the same, investigators can only assume that they came from a single source. Investigators are still in the dark as to what that source might be, but food is seen as the most likely culprit. Researcher Amee R. Manges at the University of California, Berkeley said the next steps include a large study that closely follows lifestyles and eating habits and other tests to try to determine whether  the strain is actually spread through food. “We have the most logical explanation for it,” she told, “but we need to get more evidence.”




In France, fifty tubs of yogurt containing sensors are being hidden in supermarkets to test the efficiency of cold storage in the distribution system. The sensors will detect any breaks in the cold storage that could lead to microbial growth. About the size of a watch battery, the sensor will be shipped with an edible blue jelly and a warning to consumers not to swallow the device. The French food producers’ group ANIA is offering a monetary reward to encourage consumers to send in the sensors for analysis.


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N-terminus, aLF Ventures, LLC began operations at a multi-million dollar food safety research and development laboratory located in Pomona, CA last week. The facility will prepare activated lactoferrin for commercialization. Activated lactoferrin, made from a naturally occurring protein in milk, is the newest food safety intervention technology to hit the market. Lactoferrin has been shown to protect meat from pathogens and the all-natural activation increases the effectiveness of the protein by 1,000 times. NMA member Farmland National Beef Packing Company has been instrumental in seeing lactorferrin to this crucial stage, after first learning about it at NMA’s Convention in 1998.




MicroDiagnosis Inc. announced a new technology that has the capability to detect bacterial and viral pathogens without the typical delay associated with conventional culturing methods. This real-time pathogen detection system, which they have named StatDetect, uses a patented liquid crystal technology that produces an immediate reaction when an antibody is used to capture bacteria and viruses.




California recently offered $10 million in funding to help dairies convert methane gas, a byproduct of manure, into electricity. “A 500-cow dairy could generate all of the electricity it needs and then some,” said Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of the Western United Dairymen. This technology has been available for a long time, but the methane digesters run in the range of $200,000 to $500,000 each. Under the state program, a dairy can recoup up to 50% of its capital investment. Increasing electricity prices have made what might sound like a joke into an all too viable alternative. In fact, after the methane is burned for energy, there is still solid manure to be used as fertilizer.




Based on industry reports about questionable inspector hygiene and sanitation practices, USDA is telling its employees to follow all plant sanitary procedures, Food Chemical News Daily reported. An October 5 memo from FSIS Deputy Administrator Mark Mina reminded agency employees that there is no distinction between plant employees and USDA inspectors regarding sanitary operations, equipment or hygiene. Inspectors are being told they must follow the plants' handling procedures, including the plants' set traffic patterns and cleaning requirements for knives, thermometers and other items used by USDA employees.


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Earlier this month consumer activists resumed calls for a single food agency to replace the present system, which is divided among several agencies. However, in the U.K., where they have such an agency, scientists have reportedly told the Minister of the Environment and Rural Affairs Margaret Beckett and other Key cabinet officials about serious, indeed fatal, flaws in a large scale government-funded study on identifying whether sheep were infested with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. The Minister is now faced with trying to explain how the tissue being tested came, not from sheep, but from cattle. Further, the U.K. government was close to culling the entire U.K. sheep flock. The mistake is undermining consumer confidence not only in the meat supply but mainly in the government. The London Sunday Times called it “Another Food Farce” in an editorial yesterday. So much for a single agency approach to assuring food safety, and making decisions based on the best science.



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 22, 2001


FSIS Eliminates Requirement for Certification of Scales


FSIS has issued a Final Rule that will amend its regulations governing the certification for accuracy of scales used in federally inspected meat and poultry establishments. Under the Final Rule, official establishments may rely on either state or local certification or data from documented procedures that demonstrate compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology Handbook 44. This Final Rule addresses an issue raised after publication of the May 30, 2000, Final Rule, “Elimination of Requirements for Partial Quality Control (PQC) Programs,” by clarifying that establishments may rely on data from documented procedures and that FSIS will verify establishment compliance with regulations on the accuracy of scales based on data maintained by the establishments. This final rule is effective November 15, 2001.


New Appointments for Billy and Glavin


USDA Secretary Ann Veneman announced last week the appointment of Thomas J. Billy as the Special Advisor for Codex and International Food Safety Issues. Billy has served as the Administrator for FSIS since 1996. Margaret Glavin will serve as Acting Administrator of FSIS effective today.




FSIS has issued a Clarification of Cattle Residue Testing Procedures for Veterinary Medical Officers. This describes the Agency's policies regarding when to use rapid in-plant tests to test cattle carcasses for residues. The Agency also issued a notice clarifying its policies in regards to the testing of show animals for illegal drug residues. Both Notices are available at FSIS's website (linked from




The National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection will hold a public meeting November 14-15 in Washington, DC to discuss retail exemption and modernizing the standards of identity for meat and poultry products.  A meeting agenda will be made available on the FSIS web site at:


Moisture Regulation


On October 17 FSIS published a Notice with Opportunity to Comment on the Citizen's Petition to extend the effective date of the regulation dealing with unavoidable moisture retention in raw products. Comments are due thirty days from publication – November 16, 2001.


In January, FSIS published a Final Rule to require the label declaration of retained moisture in raw poultry or meat if such retention is an unavoidable consequence of meeting applicable food safety requirements. The final rule is scheduled to become effective on January 9, 2002.




FSIS has established a new Food Biosecurity Action Team (F-BAT) in an effort to improve security measures to protect the U.S. food supply.  Potential

security improvements include upgrading internal surveillance and response capabilities, and strengthening scientific support for activities related to biological threats.  Dr. Karen Henderson, Assistant Deputy  Administrator,

Office of Field Operations, FSIS, has been selected to facilitate F-BAT activities for FSIS as the Special Assistant to the Administrator.


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California Dairy Quality Assurance Steering Committee Meeting


The California Dairy Quality Assurance Steering Committee met on Friday October 5 to discuss the development of upcoming training programs for dairy producers. The committee considered the addition of various topics to the program including emergency preparedness, bio-security, animal handling, and residue avoidance. In attendance was, Teresa Frey, NMA Director of Technical Service, who reminded the committee of the new FSIS residue policy procedures that include the posting of livestock or poultry sellers with repeat residue violations on the agency web page for one year (see Lean Trimmings 8/6/01). Frey encouraged the committee members to inform those producers who have had a recent residue violation under the new policy and to move forward as quickly as possible with the residue training segment.




USDA filed a “Reply to Post-Argument Submission by Supreme Beef Processors, Inc.” (see discussion two weeks ago). In the filing, USDA asserts that the “purpose of the Salmonella standard is to ensure that grinders have instituted adequate controls over contamination of its meat product by all enteric pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7.” This statement is in direct contradiction to earlier statements by the Agency to the effect that Salmonella was not a proxy for E. coli. It also begs the question of what are adequate controls in a segment of processing for which no microbial intervention technologies are known to exist.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) released its 2000 Annual Report last week. The report describes ongoing efforts to eradication or avoid exposure to animal diseases. Furthermore, in 2000 the Emergency Disease Program was renamed Emergency Programs to reflect its dual mission: state-wide planning and preparedness activities to address animal issues during natural disasters under the California Animal Response Emergency System (CARES), and the prevention, detection, immediate containment, and eradication of emergency animals diseases. The Annual Report describes these efforts in detail.




A recent report in the Wall Street Journal predicted that employee healthcare costs would rise sometime in the near term. Health-policy experts are predicting either higher co-payments for doctor and hospital visits or larger premiums. The nation’s employers were just beginning to confront a resurgence of health-cost inflation before September 11. Now the need to cut costs, and specifically health-care costs, has taken on greater urgency. Since most contracts between large employers and health plans for 2002 were negotiated earlier this summer, increases are most likely for 2003.




In a letter, USDA Deputy Administrator Phil Derfler said that while pasteurization with irradiation is theoretically possible, no company has yet submitted data showing its equipment “is capable of pasteurizing meat and poultry products.” USDA will examine the claims of companies that provide irradiation and describe their services as “cold pasteurization” or “electronic pasteurization,” terms that consumer advocates have fought.