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

December 10, 2001




The USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano has agreed to speak at NMA’s 56th Annual Convention, which will be held February 20-23, 2002 in Monterey, California. Murano, who recently came out against the single food safety agency concept, has extensive public and private experience in the field of food safety as both a manager and educator. During the past six years, from 1995 to her swearing-in as Under Secretary on September 26, Murano held several positions with Texas A&M University at College Station, Texas. Most recently, she served as the director for the university’s Center for Food Safety Regulations. Before joining USDA, Murano served the government as a member of the USDA National Advisory Committee for Meat and Poultry Inspection. She also served on the National Alliance for Food Safety Operations Committee, which she chaired in 2000. In her current position, she oversees the policies and programs of FSIS.


Describing herself to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia at a hearing on October 10, Murano said, “I am a native of Havana, Cuba and immigrated with my family to the United States as a small child. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Florida International University, a Master of Science degree in anaerobic microbiology from Virginia Tech, and a Ph.D., in Food Science, also from Virginia Tech. I have been a researcher and teacher in the field of food safety, both at Iowa State and Texas A&M Universities. My research efforts have led me to investigate pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella. My approach in this work has been to investigate safe methods to control or eliminate them from the farm-to-table chain. I believe my experience as a scientist and educator, and my perspectives as an ‘outsider looking in’ will be valuable as I begin this new position.”


Murano’s perspectives as an outsider looking in should make her a valuable and fascinating addition to NMA’s already outstanding line up of speakers for the upcoming convention. We are pleased that she has agreed to attend and encourage you not to miss this exciting session on February 21.




NMA’s Keynote Speaker for the 56th Annual Convention, Joseph Luter III, the president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, has continued to make nationwide headlines in recent weeks. Although the anticipated buy of American Foods Group Inc. was terminated last week, it seems unlikely the Smithfield growth will slow. “I am not interested in running a company. I am interested in building one,” explained Luter in an interview in the Economist.


“I do not have a five-year or ten-year plan. I take opportunities,” says Luter. The results speak for themselves, says the Economist. Since he became chief executive in 1975, Smithfield’s net worth has grown by a staggering 31% a year, and its share price by 28% a year – a performance that not even General Electric can match. With such a wealth of experience and success, Luter is bound to make an electrifying presentation in Monterey.


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The Finnish government said December 7 that tests on a slaughtered cow confirmed the country's first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The country will now increase the number of tests for the disease. Officials said a week ago that a suspected BSE case had been found at a slaughterhouse; tissue samples were sent to Britain for testing. The infected six-year-old cow had been destroyed, and all other cattle on the same farm would also be destroyed. Meanwhile, the Austrian government said last week it had found a suspected case of BSE and had sent samples for testing at a Swiss laboratory. If confirmed, the case would be Austria's first.




The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has released its “Mobilization Plan for Foreign Animal Disease in Livestock,” which outlines the roles and responsibilities of the potential public and private organizations that may partake in a State or Federal response to a foreign animal disease outbreak in California. This plan augments the statewide plan developed by OES and CDFA, entitled “California Response to Foreign Animal Disease.” For a copy, send an e-mail to [email protected].




USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service released the summary report of meats graded for Fiscal Year 2001. For all quality graded beef, Choice was 57.0%, Select was 39.4%, and Prime was 3.6%. For a copy of the entire report for Fiscal Year 2001 which covers beef, lamb and mutton, NMA members send a self-addressed/stamped (34¢) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA.




USDA in recognition of the fact that being home for the holidays will not be possible this year for many members of the U.S. armed forces, has issued a statement on what food items make appropriate and safe gifts. “It’s important to mail food gifts that are not perishable, can tolerate a range of temperature, and won’t break with rough handling,” said Susan Conley, director of Food Safety Education for FSIS. Food gifts that can be safely mailed include dried products such as jerky and fruits, shelf-stable canned specialties, and regional condiments such as hot sauces. Homemade cookies, candy, and low-moisture breads like fruitcake and bar cookies are also good candidates for mailing. Shelf-stable “summer sausage,” cheeses, cakes, and snacks can be ordered on the Internet or through mail order catalogs. However, because of the delivery time and distances between the U.S. and duty stations overseas, do not order any food gifts that must be kept refrigerated.


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NMA is preparing a list of Round Tables for its annual convention that will exceed previous high standards. We’re lining up some of the highest rated experts in the industry, and from beyond it, to bring their unique perspectives to this “one of a kind” grouping of four tracks over three days. Session track categories are: Science and Technology, Regulatory and Inspection, Business and Industry, Marketing and International. Each session is designed to bring together knowledgeable individuals to discuss a given subject matter, first among themselves and then in response to questions from the audience. (A list of speakers is imminent.)


Thursday February 21

Interventions to Reduce Microbial Loads (sci/tech)

HACCP Next Steps (reg/insp)

Energizing the Work Place in 2002 (bus/industry)

Price Reporting: New Hopes for Better Info (market/intl)


Friday February 22

Next Steps in Food Microbiology (sci/tech)

Designing today's plants with food safety priority (reg/insp)

Making Good Business Decisions (bus/industry)

Case-Ready: Is the consumer ready? (market/intl)


Saturday February 23

New Age Management of RTE (sci/tech)

FSIS The Next Steps (reg/insp)

Crisis Management the Biosecurity Component (bus/industry)

A Changing Industry: The Niche Markets (market/intl)


As most readers will be aware, the setting is literally a round table and some of the participants will have attendees behind them. The fact that the roundtable setting has proved to be an excellent forum for interactive discussion has persuaded us to continue this layout. 




NMA’s 56th Annual Convention, scheduled for February 20-23, 2002 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monterey, California, will also include a series of Specialty Meetings designed to give in-depth focus to a single issue of significant importance and topicality. Topics already planned are Planning for the Future of Your Business, BSE Update, Keeping Meat Cold, Commodity Purchase Update, Allergy Monitoring & Management, Update on Residues, Update on Exports, Update on Slotting Fees,  and Update on Animal Handling Issues. Unlike the Round Tables, the Specialty Meetings are almost exclusively done in a classroom, directed-informational style.  Rather than a venue to bounce ideas among experts, a Specialty Meeting is about gathering information. Some slots still remain to be filled. If there is a topic that is of burning interest that hasn’t been covered, NMA members should contact Rosemary or Jeremy at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected]




Since the 2002 Winter Olympics will be ending the Sunday after NMA’s Convention, we’ve decided to incorporate the spectacle. Join NMA onsite in Monterey for Olympic festivities at its Convention sports bar featuring televised coverage of the games!!!


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Bruce Ingersoll, 60, a reporter who spent most of his 17-year career at the Wall Street Journal covering the “regulations, abuses and amusing arcana of the agriculture industry,” died of myelodisplastic syndrome December 1 at Sibley Memorial Hospital, reported the Washington Post. Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Carol Corbett Ingersoll of Washington; two children from his second marriage, Brenda Ingersoll and Archie Ingersoll, both of Washington; two stepdaughters, Molly Carr of Seattle and Gillian Carr of San Francisco; and two sisters.


Fred W. Leak, Jr., of the University of Florida Department of Animals Sciences, died unexpectedly on November 29. Leak worked with many meatpackers, food wholesalers, retailers and cruise line operators on designing programs to improve meat merchandising, consumer eating experiences and food safety, reported

Donations may be made to the Fred Leak Scholarship Fund at the University of Florida Foundation, FW Leak Scholarship, c/o DD Johnson, PO Box 110910, Animal Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.



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

December 10, 2001




The Farm Bill, scheduled to be debated in the Senate this week, is being pushed by political momentum. Driven by farm state senators up for election in 2002 who want to generate a record showing they can satisfy constituents and by legislators who apparently hope to maximize total dollars by moving the bill soon, some expect it on the President’s desk before the end of the year. However, Senate Majority Leader Daschle indicated a final bill may not be ready until early next year. Once the Senate’s passes, differences between it and a House bill passed in October remain to be resolved in joint conference.


Preceding Farm Bills have not been as loaded with meat packing and processing industry issues. NMA encourages its members to telephone, fax or e-mail their Senators with their views. In summary, those issues are:


·     Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for some or all farm products. While the most recent versions of the legislation would exempt processed products like hot dogs, no such exemption would exist for hamburger and certainly there is no exemption for whole muscle cuts. Government programs supporting the voluntary COOL are very little used, suggesting that there is not a huge demand by consumers. Instead mandatory COOL appears as more of a trade restriction. Meat is not the only product potentially subject to new COOL requirements. Perishable commodities (fresh fruits and vegetables), farm raised fish, and peanuts have also been targeted.

·     Prohibition on Grading Imported Carcasses. This provision appears to be a violation of the United States' international trade obligations, as it would clearly discriminate against imported products and put them at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace.

·     Anti-competitive provision. A provision designed to prohibit meat packers from feeding livestock, this legislation would harm individuals and firms who are trying provide consumers consistent, value-added product by carefully controlling the entire process from birth (or close to it) to case-ready. Rather than provide real assistance to producers, it apparently attempts to punish processors who have successfully filled a market niche.

·     Ban disabled livestock from entering the food supply. The brainchild of the animal rights movement, this provision would limit the commercial food supply to ambulatory livestock. NMA believes strongly that this would divert disabled livestock into uninspected channels. By encouraging this type of criminal behavior, which is very, very difficult to detect in the countryside, it would seriously undermine the safety of the meat supply, especially for the most vulnerable people. Humane handling of disabled livestock is a must, practiced at all firms operating under the statutory authority of the law. Let’s keep it that way.

·     Interstate Shipment of State Inspected product. This is an issue whose time is come. If a state is operating at the equal-to level, the product should move interstate on a par with imported product. If not inequities exist, then corrective action should be taken or a state’s program should be converted to the federal system.

·     Performance Standards. Senator Harkin is continuing to find a way to codify FSIS’ Salmonella performance standards, enforcement of which is currently a violation of the law. No act of Congress should mandate scientifically flawed standards. Congress should not intervene while the issue is being appealed though the courts.


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House lawmakers unveiled bipartisan bioterrorism legislation December 6 called “The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2001.” This measure would authorize $100 million for FDA in FY2002 to protect against adulteration of food. The legislation would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services to increase inspections, improve testing and sampling methods, assess the threat of intentional adulteration and improve information management systems that support FDA inspection programs. Representative Richard Burr (R-NC) in talking to the press underscored a “sense of urgency” and said he expects the bill to go to the House floor next week under a suspension of the rules.




Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) has circulated to his colleagues a letter stating that he intends to offer an amendment to the fast-moving bioterrorism legislation  (see article to left) that would empower USDA and FDA to mandate recalls.  




An interpretive summary of the FSIS Draft Risk Assessment of the Public Health Impact of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Ground Beef, is now available on the FSIS web site. The Summary provides an overview of the draft E. coli O157:H7 risk assessment. Its purpose is to briefly describe the material covered, including background information on E. coli O157:H7 and related illness, the techniques and data used to develop the risk assessment, the results of the risk assessment, and the limitations and implications of those findings. Access the summary at:




FSIS is planning to cut 2 district offices in the next six months, bringing the total number to 15.  According to the Agency, the reduction in district offices will result in no closings, employee layoffs or relocations and the two affected facilities, which have not yet been named, will remain open as satellite offices. Offices which are being considered as potential demotees include Pickerington, OH; Boulder, CO; and Salem, OR.




Fast track trade authority passed in the House of Representatives December 6 by one vote. If the measure is approved by the Senate as expected, it will allow trade negotiators to strike international deals that can be approved by Congress, but not altered. President Bush applauded the action and said in a statement that it “will give me the flexibility I need to secure the greatest possible trade opportunities for America’s farmers, workers, families, and consumers.”




Effective November 12, Bonnie Buntain. DVM, MS, assumed the position of Chief Veterinary Medical Officer (CVMO) at FSIS. The CVMO is a new position that was created as a recommendation from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Role of FSIS Veterinarians as Public Health Officials for the 21st Century. The position provides leadership in promoting the education, training, and professional development of the Agency's veterinary medical staff and in ensuring that this staff is fully and effectively utilized in a farm-to-table food safety strategy.  The CVMO focuses Agency efforts to recruit and retain the highest caliber veterinary staff.




Karen L. Hulebak, Sc.D., has been named Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Scientific Affairs. In this position, Dr. Hulebak advises on science policy and on scientific issues that affect FSIS missions and functions. In her role, Dr. Hulebak works with FSIS program offices to promote and communicate within FSIS and to stakeholders the central tenet that science and public health protection are central to FSIS policy development and decision making. 




The Chicago Tribune published yesterday and today articles that alleges “dangerous faults in school food manufacturing plants and in the government regulatory system that oversees them.” The articles are online at


NOTE: NMA learned last week that due to the anthrax scare USDA has not received regular mail for the last month. If you have contacted or wish to contact Agency officials it is suggested that you use fax or e-mail.