NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612

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Edited by Jeremy Russell

December 3, 2001




At an FSIS briefing last Friday, Dr. George Gray, leader of the Harvard University risk assessment team, presented the results of a Harvard Study into the risks of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), providing a brief overview of the 500-page report now available. He pointed out that the Study’s authors are risk analysis experts. They began their research by studying BSE in Europe and other countries. They then studied the U.S. beef processing system in a hands-on, on-site manner. Finally, they applied what they learned about BSE to the U.S. system. To assist them in drawing conclusions, they designed a computer model.


They found that the “United States is very resistant to BSE,” said Dr. Gray. They further concluded that even if it was introduced, there would be relatively few cases, very little exposure and the disease would die out and could not become part of the U. S. agricultural landscape. The ruminant feed ban, though it may not work perfectly, breaks the loop of recycling.


The scientists ran literally thousands of variations through their model, simulating the introduction of varying numbers of sick cattle into the U.S. food supply. They came to the conclusion that the disease would dissipate and die out. In a worst case scenario, the introduction of sick animals on the order of 500 head, this process might take as long as twenty years, but they determined that there was relatively little possibility of infectivity into the human food chain. 


Dr. Gray explained that the researchers tested their model against the Swiss experience to see how it would track against a realized outbreak, using information and data from that country which did have a finding of diseased livestock. They concluded based on this testing that their model functioned very accurately, especially on tracking the time-frame of an outbreak.


Agency briefing participants included APHIS Administrator Bobby Acord, who chaired the meeting, FSIS Acting Administrator Margaret Glavin and Center for Veterinary Medicine’s Dr. Steven Sundloff. Dr. Acord said that the study finds that what the United States has in place to protect against the potential of BSE in the United States is “very good news” for both consumers and the industry.


Dr. Gray, Dr. Acord assisted by Dr. Linda Detwiler, Dr. Sundloff and Ms. Glavin assisted in responding to questions. They confirmed that, although they are considering bolstering their program, they are very comfortable with the U.S.’s targeted surveillance program. They are looking at other possible government efforts to prohibit the use of Specified Risk Materials, such as Central Nervous Tissue and spinal cord for human consumption. They are considering excluding the use of the vertebral column in advanced meat recovery systems and prohibiting certain stunning practices. They are also evaluating the current exemptions for blood, gelatin and other materials, the disposal of dead stock at farms and the use of poultry litter. It was also noted that the Study will be peer reviewed. (More on page 3).


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Cattle Buyers Weekly TOP 30 BEEF PACKERS


Cattle Buyers Weekly has released its list of the top 30 beef packers in the United States. Topping the list this year are IBP, Excel, ConAgra and Farmland National, with Smithfield Foods coming in fifth. CBW’s annual ranking of the top 30 beef packers is based on maximum daily slaughter capacity at U.S. plants that currently operate under common ownership and/or management. To find out more contact editor Steve Kay at (707) 765-1725 or visit




Dr. Temple Grandin, the nation’s foremost expert on animal handling and a recipient of NMA’s highest honor the E. Floyd Forbes Award, was recently chosen for Meat Marketing & Technology’s ( prestigious 2002 Richard L. Knowlton Innovation Award. The award is named after the former chairman, president and CEO of Hormel Foods and recognizes individuals whose ingenuity and leadership have been a catalyst for positive change in the meat industry. Grandin, an assistant professor in the animal sciences department at Colorado State University, was selected by the magazine’s editors for her innovative designs and inventions, which have helped plant handlers more effectively and humanely manage their livestock. To get a sense of Grandin’s expertise, read her column “From the Corral” at Meat & Poultry magazine’s website




In recognition of its Silver Anniversary, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) has released a handsome booklet describing its history of accomplishments around the world. “USMEF, in its 25 years, has played a vital role as the industry’s leader in meeting the challenge of market developments and trade reform,” wrote USMEF chairman George Obernagel in the booklet’s introduction. “USMEF not only provides information and intelligence about worldwide markets that cannot be obtained anywhere else, but – more important in my estimate – USMEF puts buyers and sellers together, to build demand in existing markets and break into new ones.”


NMA is pleased that USMEF has been an active partner in many endeavors and continues to enjoy excellent relations with the leader in meat export expansion. Like NMA, USMEF believes strongly that a unified industry approach is the best use of limited resourced. USMEF president Philip Seng said it best, “When we speak with one voice, we are more readily heard.”


For a copy of USMEF’s booklet on its Silver Anniversary and the Golden Opportunities beyond, send a self-addressed, stamped (1.33¢) large-size envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request.


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After rigorous research into the U.S. meat supply and the history of the spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) through the world, Harvard risk assessors were not able to rule out the possibility that a relatively small amount of BSE was introduced into the United States from the surviving livestock imported from the U.K. before importations were banned (between 1980 and 1989). Although the U.S. BSE testing program has not found a single case, there exists a very small chance that some sick animals were imported. They could only assume that if this had been the case, it was a minor amount as, otherwise, the testing program would have found at least one animal. However, if introduced, the disease would have either already died out or be well on its way to dying out, according to their research. And they found it highly unlikely that there could ever be a major BSE problem in the U.S.


In short, top Harvard risk assessors asked themselves the question: What if the U.S. already has BSE? And they answered that given the protections, the disease still would not pose a significant health risk to Americans.


Dr. Gray pointed out that the disease is not easily transmitted, especially not to humans, who experts in the U.K. estimate are 10 to 100,000 less likely to be infected by the same dosages as cattle. BSE appears to transfer only through certain specific parts, what he referred to as Specified Risk Materials. Again, the United States has implemented some threshold requirements that protect against infectivity transfer even if the disease were identified in the U.S., which it has not. His final comment: BSE won’t become a major public health problem in the U. S.


The bottom line: The risk assessment confirms that the United States has effective, robust controls in place. Even if a single disease incident occurs here, it will be isolated and short-lived and should not be a public health concern.




With the detection of a third cow with BSE in Japan in just a few months, the island nation has had its beef market decimated. At least one grilled-beef restaurant chain has already filed for bankruptcy, while a recent poll showed that 63% of respondents said they wouldn’t eat beef again, reported the Wall Street Journal. Beef sales are plunging. Even sales of U.S. beef, considered BSE-free, are evaporating. The government estimates that it will cost more than $1 billion to restore consumer confidence. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of the situation is that Japan’s ministers were forewarned. When the Japanese government was informed that a report they had commissioned would reveal that BSE was more than likely to have been imported to their country in meat-and-bone meal from countries like Italy and Switzerland, “they no longer wanted the report,” said Etienne Reuter, an EU spokesman in Tokyo. Having missed an opportunity to provide preventions, Japan now suffers the costly consequences.


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In a new development, FSIS has issued NRs and has even indicated possible NOIEs may result from the AMS findings of E. coli O157:H7. Reportedly, in the last school year, the guidance from FSIS headquarters staff was not to issue any enforcement documents. NMA recommends, when producing ground beef for any customer that requires testing for E. coli O157:H7 as a condition of their purchase acceptance, members develop a separate HACCP plan for such product(s) that includes this acceptance testing. The establishment would then conduct the final pre-shipment review only after the receipt of the negative test results. The HACCP plan should contain a provision to divert (kill step/destruction) product that is reported positive and thus failed the purchase specification. Remember, the pre-shipment review can be conducted even if the product is outside the establishment, such as at an off-site cold warehouse, provided the establishment has control of the product.




The lawsuit against the use of nonambulatory livestock was filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of NewYork (the U.S. Court in Manhattan).  Plaintiffs are Farm Sanctuary, Inc. and Michael Baur, a professor in the Philosophy Department at Fordham University. The government’s response is due on or before January 7.




GOLF – For you golfers... have you put together your foursome for NMA’s Golf Tournament during the 56th Annual Convention in Monterey, California? Registration forms have been mailed, but if you have not received your copy, call the association office for the brochure. The tournament will be held at the historic and beautiful Del Monte Golf Course in Monterey, California on Wednesday, February 20, 2002. Tee time for this shotgun scramble will be at 8:00am. Del Monte Golf Course, now more than 100 years old, is the oldest course west of the Mississippi and offers an exceptional challenge to every skill level. Schedule this event on your calendar today!


SPOUSE TOUR – The tour now includes “Footsteps-of-Steinbeck,” which traces the life and literature of John Steinbeck on the Monterey Peninsula beyond Salinas, where he as born and raised. A delightful lunch will be served at the lovely Steinbeck House, followed by a visit to the Steinbeck Center. The scenic ride through the Monterey Peninsula will certainly be an enjoyable tour.



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 3, 2001




As we go to press today, it appears likely that the 2001 Farm Bill will reach the floor of the Senate this week. The last such bill, the so-called Freedom to Farm Bill, left many in the agriculture community without their traditional government support in the tough times. It is likely that this year’s bill will reinstate a variety of supports. Existing farm programs do not expire until October 2002.


The House of Representatives passed its version of the Farm Bill in early October, and it too contains efforts to correct inequities thought to have been created by the last Farm Bill. Once the Senate completes work, the two versions will be reconciled by a Conference Committee comprised of members from both the Senate and the House. There is then usually an up/down vote on the compromise. The final bill then goes to the President.


Both the Senate bill and one passed by the House in October would cost about $170 billion over the next 10 years, the ceiling set in this year's congressional budget agreement. The Senate legislation would have to be renewed in five years.


This week’s activity in the Senate is important, because with every additional debated item that is included, there is increasing reluctance by the eventual Conference Committee members to modify. It is therefore important for NMA members to contact their Senators about any issues of great concern. In addition, NMA is working with other interested groups in Washington to be sure that Senators get the message. Obviously, the more united the message, the stronger it is on delivery to the Senators.


The following are issues in debate that you may wish to call your Senator about:


·     Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Promoted by Sen. Wellstone (D-MN) and others, it would require country of origin labeling on produce, fish and meat. Although it would generally exclude processed meat, hamburger would have to be labeled. The industry is somewhat mixed, because producers who feed livestock they have imported from Mexico or Canada would like them to be considered U.S., but Senator Wellstone’s proposal limits the U.S. label to cattle that have been born and raised in the U.S.  NMA’s members have resolutely opposed COOL and perceive it merely as a trade barrier with our finest trading partners: Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. NMA supports voluntary labeling, which is available with USDA certification.

·     The Competition Title. Some provisions to restrict agricultural mergers and other government-led interventions have mostly been worked out of earlier Senate drafts. The one remaining is a provision to forbid packer ownership of livestock. This is one that NMA members should clearly call Senators about. NMA believes that a free marketplace best serves the needs and interests of Americans, and is opposed to any artificial constraints.

·     Prohibition on Grading Imported Carcasses. In addition to requiring COOL, Senator Wellstone’s amendment includes a provision that would prohibit USDA from grading imported meat or meat carcasses. This provision appears to be a more flagrant 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.


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FDA will be funded at the full $1.414 billion that President Bush sought for this fiscal year, which is a 9.5% increase over last year. The Agency’s food safety programs will receive a $58 million boost from last year, about 16%. The funding also covers FDA’s request for $13.8 million in cost-of-living increases for its food safety inspectors. Bush signed the congressional funding measure into law November 29.




The public meeting to discuss and receive comments on agenda items for the Eighth Session of the Codex Committee on Meat and Poultry Hygiene, originally scheduled for December 10, has been changed to December 12. In addition, the meeting will be now be held in the Diplomat Room at the Washington Plaza Hotel from 9:00am-12:00pm. For additional information, contact the U.S. Codex Office, at 202-205-7760 or access at




FDA warned that it will regulate statements on company websites as if those statements were product labeling “in certain circumstances,” reported Food Chemical News. "The agency sees no reason to treat Internet information of food companies differently from Internet information of other FDA-regulated industries," the agency said in a letter to the Washington Legal Foundation. The letter responds to the foundation's April 13 request that FDA formally adopt a rule, policy or guidance stating that labeling does not include information on a company's Web site, including hyperlinks to third-party sites.  "As such, FDA disagrees with your alternative request to exempt Internet information of food companies from labeling requirements,” added the agency. It plans to evaluate company statements on a case by case basis.




The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reached a settlement in a lawsuit NAM had filed to block new OSHA recordkeeping requirements, reports the National Chicken Council Washington Report. Under the terms, OSHA will refrain from enforcing its rule for 120 days after implementation in January. During this time, OSHA compliance personnel will assist employers to comply. Citations will not be issued, provided that a good faith attempt is being made to meet regulations.


The terms also specify that an employer need not record as a restricted work case any incident in which an employee experiences minor musculoskeletal discomfort as long as a health care professional has determined that a worker is fully able to perform the job, and as long the employer assigns work restrictions for the purpose of preventing more serious damage.




NASDA e-News reports that the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is seeking papers for “Agricultural Animal Manure-Management, Policy and Technology,” the third in a continuing series of animal residuals conferences. The event, scheduled for May 6 to 8, 2002, in Washington, D.C., is intended to help guide further development of policy, program, and technology transfer approaches that will aid animal feeding operation (AFO) owners and operators in accelerating and advancing manure management. It is intended to attract representatives from the farming, business, and banking communities, congressional staff, equipment manufacturers, researchers, educators, technical service providers and government officials,  and other interested parties. Abstracts are due January 18, 2002.  For more  information, e-mail [email protected].