NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
November 20, 2000
This year on Thanksgiving we will understand if people abstain from traditional victuals, there’s been enough turkey since November 7th to last a whole four years. On the other hand, perhaps by the 23rd this whole mess will be settled and we can all sit down and really give thanks. In any case, as your feeding you’re family this holiday season please remember to follow all food safety commandments. Cook your meat thoroughly and use a thermometer. FSIS has placed turkey specific food safety on the web at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/focustky.htm. NOTE: NMA’s Oakland office will be closed Thursday and Friday, November 23-24, this week.
The U. S. International Trade Commission held a hearing last week in Washington, DC to monitor developments in the domestic lamb industry since the President imposed a tariff-rate quota on imports of fresh, chilled, or frozen lamb meat in July 1999. The petitioners supporters included Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Larry Craig (R-ID) and the respondents supporters included New Zealand Ambassador James Bolger and Australian Ambassador Michael Thawley. Panel presentations on both sides included a lot of heavy economic information. Petitioners introduced a novel concept in international trade disputes, namely that the tariff rates should be adjusted to reflect the devalued currencies of the countries from which imported lamb is imported. They also argued that the Commissioners should not give any weight to the preliminary WTO decision ruling in favor of the challenges by Australia and New Zealand. The respondents argued that the trade restrictions were unwarranted and should be terminated immediately.
NMA’s Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow testified about two of the six benchmarks set by the U. S. Trade Representative to assist in evaluation. In discussing progress towards a coordinated and comprehensive strategy for market development, she noted the cooperative marketing proposal that NMA submitted for promotion funds which will be supported by several lamb packers and processors, to promote American lamb. Noting the long running failure of generic lamb promotion, while lamb consumption decreased year after year, she suggested that an innovative promotion, similar to Dean Foods successful milk chugs, is a better way to go. She emphasized that rather than perpetuating the “us” vs ”them” dogma that has marked the domestic lamb industry’s view of imports, a coordinated and comprehensive strategy for market development would be preferable for long term objectives. Finally, she noted the lack of support for the new National Sheep Association by the lead petitioner in the trade action. Mucklow urged the Commissioners to require cooperation and coordination as a condition of the import relief.
Supreme Beef filed a response to USDA’s request that the court lift the stay and moot the ruling in the Texas Litigation. Despite its recent filing of bankruptcy, “Supreme Beef is ready, willing and able to proceed with this appeal so that the district court’s final judgment can be considered and upheld by this Court” and therefore opposes the lift of the stay. As to the question of mootness, Supreme’s filing comments that “the relief sought by the government clearly has dangerous consequences. In order to resurrect a regulation that has been set aside by a district court without any appellate consideration on the merits, the government need only drive the appellee out of business.” Supreme hopes to reorganize and continue operations. For the Supreme filing send a large sized self-addressed, stamped ($1.10) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West
Tyson Foods Inc. was awarded $20.09 million in its trade secret case against ConAgra only to have it stripped away at appeal time. Tyson Foods filed a lawsuit against ConAgra last year after four executives and other employees left the company for jobs with ConAgra Poultry. The company feared for its feed nutrient profile. The initial Court ruling was that Tyson's formula is a trade secret and that a former Tyson employee misappropriated the formula for ConAgra Poultry. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled last week that Tyson is actually at fault for not adequately protecting corporate secrets from a major competitor. The information was not secret, the court said, and even if it were, Tyson did little to protect it. The unanimous decision reversed the lower court ruling.
Sizzler International, Inc. reported sales dipped to $54.6 million from $55.3 million in last year's second quarter revenues. The company's earnings also fell to $310,000 from $2.1 million for last year's corresponding period. The loss was in part attributed to the Wisconsin E. coli outbreak in July which sickened 62 patrons and took the life of a three-year-old child, Agri-Wire reported.
A complete report from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services on the investigation following the outbreak describes employees working despite prolonged diarrhea and nausea, workers washing their hands in buckets because of a lack of hand washing stations, and inadequate food safety knowledge among restaurant staff. The report concludes that the main cause of the outbreak was that a mixer, located between two tables where most food preparation for the salad bar took place, was used with a removable grinder attachment to grind sirloin tri-tip roasts.
In recent weeks a half-dozen U.S. companies have been forced to recall some flour, meal and other commercial baking ingredients because they might contain the StarLink corn from Aventis. StarLink is a genetically modified corn that has never been approved for human consumption. This is a watershed event. It is the first time that companies have recalled products because of potential harmful genetic alteration. The discoveries are not only an embarrassment to the genetic industry that has until now told angry activists that it could control the movement of genetically modified foods, but has also delivered a serious blow to the public’s perception of biotech foods in general. This is because it is debatable that the corn really poses a threat to human health, it is not debatable that its entrance into the food chain was illegal mishandling. Even less encouraging is the fact that nobody knows exactly how the corn got into the wrong food chain.
The attorney generals of 16 states are asking Aventis to implement a system to pay claims on the corn within 30 days to companies that were forced to make a recall and to identify more approved sites where StarLink and commingled corn can be used for feed and industrial uses. FSIS released a statement to the effect that, since there is no test to determine if the corn has entered meat products, they will be unable to search for it there. But FSIS did co-sign a letter with EPA and FDA to various trade associations seeking information as to the distribution of StarLink corn or any alleged adverse reaction caused by the possible ingestion of products containing the corn. FSIS has not yet received any complaints.
General Electric (GE) has introduced a new kind of oven, called the AdvantiumTM. The Advantium speeds the cooking process by harnessing the power of light. Unlike with a microwave oven, foods cooked with light retain moisture. GE says that the foods cooked with this new technology also taste better. How fast are we talking about? A whole chicken cooks in an Advantium oven in 25 minutes, that’s compared to 119 minutes in a conventional oven. GE also says the Advantium uses 25% less energy than a conventional oven. And what’s more, Advantium’s can be converted into a fully functioning microwave oven with a flip of a switch. Although the popularity of this new technology has not yet been established, it’s something to take under consideration next time you write your cooking instructions on a product label.
The special committee formed by IBP, inc.'s board of directors indicated its interest in pursuing Smithfield's $2.7 billion stock offer. The two parties have agreed to discuss the proposal further with IBP urging Smithfield Foods to increase its bid. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Paul Wellstone (D-MN) have all asked the Justice Department to block the proposed merger. If the two companies merged, the combination would control 38% of U.S. pork and 30% of U.S. beef, according to Dorgan. Smithfield has run afoul of similar attacks before with its acquisitions of Murphy Family Farms and Carroll Foods. IBP, meanwhile, announced a deal with Titan’s SureBeam to irradiate products on the line. An excellent in-depth analysis of the IBP-Smithfield situation is offered this week by Cattle Buyers Weekly (http://www.cattlebuyersweekly.com/, linked from NMA’s website).
FILING AGAINST ERGONOMICS STANDARD
The National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Coalition on Ergonomics, and other business groups have filed lawsuits in federal court in Washington to block implementation of the final ergonomics rule published by OSHA (see Herd on the Hill page 1).
NPPC Salmonella ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
NPPC will provide trained technical teams for its Salmonella Assistance Program to try to identify the cause and/or source of Salmonella contamination to help pork slaughter plants to meet USDA’s Salmonella performance standard. For information contact Michele Senne at (515) 223-2600 or e-mail [email protected].
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman announced fifteen grants totaling nearly $3.85 million to fund marketing and promotion projects to help increase sales of U.S. lamb. Last year, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled 6-0 that the recent surge of low-priced imported lamb meat causes the threat of injury of U.S. producers. The assistance package is designed to help the U.S. lamb industry achieve sustained competitiveness, while respecting international trade obligations. The plan includes $30 million for direct cash payments tied to production practices and quality incentives that improve competitiveness. It also funds USDA purchases of lamb and expanded scrapie eradication efforts. National Meat Association was granted $500,000 to conduct a media advertising campaign.
NATIONAL SUMMARY OF MEATS GRADED
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service released the summary report of meats graded for the month of October, 2000. For all quality graded beef, Choice was 56.4%, up from 55.5% in September. Select was 39.6%, down from 41.1% the previous month. And Prime was 4.0% up from 3.5% in September. For a copy of the entire report which covers beef, lamb and mutton, NMA members send a self-addressed/stamped (33˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA.
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
November 20, 2000
ELECTORAL UNCERTAINTY DELAYS CONGRESS
The continued uncertainty about the presidential election has delayed the congressional lame-duck session and final budget negotiations. Lawmakers returned to work this week and passed a stop-gap funding resolution to keep government running until December 5th. Congress still must finish work on the annual spending bills and decide whether to move a major tax relief package. Leaders from both parties agreed to postpone the budget and tax negotiations because resolution of the outstanding policy disputes will depend on who occupies the White House next year.
OSHA FINALIZES ERGONOMICS RULES
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the final version of its highly controversial ergonomics rule. The rule will go into effect on January 16, 2001. According to the Wall Street Journal, this is only a first in a wave of new federal regulations that the Clinton Administration is set to issue before leaving office. Final regulations such as this one may be reversed or recast only if the new administration is willing to start the rule-making process again from scratch. Claiming that the science on ergonomics is not clear and that the new regulations are too costly, Congress added provisions to its spending bill that said no money could be used to “promulgate, issue, implement, administer, or enforce any proposed, temporary or final” regulation in this area.
Under the new rule, should it be enforced, all manufacturing and manual handling operations, including meat processing, would be required to establish an ergonomics program for those jobs which have demonstrated work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Companies with such jobs would have to develop a reporting system and offer medical care and time off to the injured.
NMA plans to hold a session on the new ergonomics rule, its impacts and ways that companies can prepare, during MEATXPO 2001 and the 55th Annual Convention at the Rio Suite and Casino Resort in Los Vegas, Nevada, February 18-21, 2001.
OTHER RULES ON THE WAY
The largest number of new regulations is expected from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is gearing up to release about 87 new rules, the Wall Street Journal reports. The most divisive regulation would lower the amount of sulfur content in diesel fuel by 95%. Business groups have argued that lowering the amount of sulfur by more than 90% would threaten the nation’s of diesel fuel, which is used in more freight-carrying trucks.
The Department of Labor is set to issue new regs establishing deadlines for patient delayed or denied coverage appeals. The rules would require health-care firms to tell patients why their coverage was denied and could boost employers’ health-care costs.
NMA wrote today to respond to a Federal Register Proposed Rule that would allow FSIS to more easily share proprietary company information with state and other federel government authorities in a recall situation. NMA has long believed that the most effective way to recover product is by cooperation between regulatory authorities and the company involved, however the Agency should have a higher burden to meet when it wants to share information that is considered proprietary and/or confidential under the Freedom of Information Act. “[FSIS] should provide notice and a reasonable time for company response that it intends to take this step,” wrote Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow. “This will permit the company to demonstrate that it already has control of the product, or inform the FSIS that dissemination of its proprietary and confidential information will not enhance the ability to recover the product.” For a complete copy of the letter, send a self-addressed, stamped (33˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West.
As of November 17 the AMS sampling program for commodity beef has tested 59,911,747 pounds of ground beef from 16 vendors. Of the 665 tests performed, there were 7 failures for E. coli O157:H7 (1.05%) and 32 failures for Salmonella (4.81%). There were 25 failures of other microbial tests for a total of 63 failures and 4,678,296 pounds rejected – an increase of 794,260 pounds since last week alone.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will be holding seven more sessions on the 2002 Farm Bill. Congress uses the Farm Bill as a guide for directing federal agriculture policy. These forums provide an opportunity for California constituents to provide input into its developments. Locations are below. For more information contact CDFA (www.cdfa.gov), phone (916) 654-0462 or e-mail [email protected].
Costa Mesa, November 30
Anderson, December 7
Ukiah, January 9
Ventura, January 12
Imperial, January 23
Woodland, January 30
Paso Robles, February 8
The outcome of a fight over milk in California may reveal some of the difficulties that the meat industry may face in the future over state inspection. California has become the only state in the nation with its own set of standards for milk, and these were recently approved by the California Supreme Court. The standards require that milk in the state have a higher level of nutrients than those set by federal regulators. In defending its unique guidelines, the state said the higher standards were necessary to protect the health of consumers, particularly senior citizens and children, but of course milk is also more expensive because of the strict standards. According to an Arizona dairy that opposes the standards, California has lower milk consumption rates. “If people aren’t drinking it, then they aren’t getting extra nutrition from it,” argued Audrie Krause, director of Mad About Milk, an L.A.-based coalition of consumer and dairy groups that want the standards booted. On the other hand, many believe that California is protecting a rich product with a creamier texture from being undercut by the legions of numbing banality offered elsewhere. “The beauty of California’s standard is that year-round, we have a better-tasting, higher-quality product that benefits consumers,” said Michael Boccadoro, executive director of Californians for Nutritious Milk.