NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
February 12, 2001
There’s still time to register for MEATXPO’O1, February 18-21. Call NMA at (510) 763-1533 for details, and we’ll see you in Las Vegas!
Two senior Health Canada scientists came forward last week to denounce their government’s ban of beef from Brazil. In interviews with The Globe and Mail posted February 9, they said there is no sustainable argument for singling out Brazilian beef products ahead of those imported from other countries. One of them added that the ban was decided upon by managers without consulting the scientists who actually study the beef. “Brazilian beef poses no danger that we know of. No more than any other country. Why not Australia, Argentina, India or any other country we import beef from? Why is Brazil picked on? It's the trade war,” concluded one of the senior scientists.
Top government officials across Canada insists the ban is about health, not an escalation of an ongoing Canada-Brazil trade battle. “This has everything to do with the safety of the Canadian food supply,” Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief told the House of Commons. Brazil, however, was not convinced and has even threatened an all-out trade war if the ban is not lifted quickly.
Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso on February 9 delivered Canada a blunt deadline of three weeks to revoke a ban on Brazilian beef imports. The ultimatum came as Canada promised a team of health inspectors would arrive in Brazil this week, as demanded by Brazil's government, and that once they conclude there is no Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) disease in Brazil, the ban will be lifted immediately. It was not clear how long the team would take to analyze its findings.
Brazil exports only $5.5 million in beef products to Canada annually, but the ban is painful because the United States and Mexico, fellow members of the NAFTA trade pact, followed Canada's lead in blocking its beef products. The political power of the BSE scare is such that even if Canada’s claims against Brazil prove to be entirely spurious and motivated only by a four year old feud between rival jet manufacturers, as detractors have claimed, then the U.S. and Mexico will still have seemed prudent for having joined in the ban. It is a terrible shame that fear could be put to such use, but “of all the passions, fear weakens judgement most,” as was well said by Cardinal de Retz. (For more information see last week’s Lean Trimmings available at NMAonline.org).
The BSE specialty meeting planned for the last day of NMA’s Convention in Las Vegas next week has been cancelled and replaced by two other BSE-related talks. Attendees with an interest in BSE are encouraged to attend both the Food Safety Committee at 6:30am on Tuesday, February 21. There Dr. Jeff Savell of Texas A&M University and Dr. Kerri Harris of the International HACCP Alliance will be joined by Dr. Gary Smith of Colorado State University to speak about the impact of the current global crisis surrounding the disease. Both speakers will also be available later in the day at the NMA booth for further inquiries on the topic. All other Specialty Meetings will proceed on Wednesday, February 21 at 1:45pm as planned.
COMPANIES RUSH TO INVENT BSE EARLY DETECTION TESTS
“There is still no treatment for prion diseases, including BSE and nvCJD, but a reliable and sensitive diagnostic would permit the testing not only of cattle, but also of human blood products and tissues before they are used in medical procedures,” said Dr. Robert Petersen, chief scientific
adviser at Prion Developmental Laboratories, Inc. He could have been speaking for any number of companies hoping to market a test that will detect Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the blood, rather than by post-mortem brain biopsy, the current standard test. By the time you’ve administered a brain biopsy “it's usually too late to ensure that infected meat or beef products have not entered the human food supply,” he added. But BSE is not caused by something easy to test for, such as bacteria. It is not even caused by a virus, which is somewhat easier to test using immune proteins called antibodies or by looking for its genetic material. BSE, CJD and related diseases such as Scrapie are caused by prions, nerve system proteins that are normally benign but which can take on a misshapen form that can cause waste material to collect in the brain. Nonetheless, a few companies are forging ahead to develop tests that might find the prions in the blood or in an easily reached part of the body such as the back of the throat.
This test is of increasing importance even if only to alleviate the terrible fear and dread that the BSE crisis has engendered. The human version of the disease, called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or nvCJD, has been detected in fewer than 90 people, but without a test for reassurance many wait in fear. The United Nations said on February 7 that at least 100 countries were at risk from BSE. So far Switzerland is the only nation outside the 15-nation EU to report the appearance of BSE, but all EU states have reported BSE cases except Finland, Sweden, Austria and Greece. This alone would be a huge market, and is therefore a huge incentive, for companies seeking to develop a better method of BSE detection.
BioLabs, Inc. researchers hope to come up with a test that can be used on cattle at the slaughterhouse, and later perhaps on human blood. In November, Swiss scientists reported discovery of a blood protein called plasminogen that attaches to the rogue prions. Dr. Robert Gallo, who helped discover the HIV virus that causes AIDS and has helped set up Prion Developmental Laboratories, Inc. to find a BSE test, said there would never be a test that consumers could use, or even one that could be used in supermarkets. “It's way too complicated for a simple test,” he told Reuters. He said tests require much more infectious material than would ever be found on the surface of a steak, for instance.
Such a test may never be necessary in the Unites States, however. According to a new report being finalized by a team at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, BSE is unlikely here. “It’s not likely to occur here,” said the study’s principle author, George Gray. “And even if it does occur, it’s virtually impossible to imagine how we could have a UK-like epidemic.” This is because the U.S. has banned all feeding of ruminant proteins to ruminants (with the exception of blood materials) and because there is no evidence that the disease can be spread in any other way. Whatever changes in policy and regulations the report ends up making, Gray said, “They’re going to be small things, incremental things.”
There has still been no investigation of Mark Purdy’s interesting research linking the outbreak to pesticides used on cattle (see Lean Trimmings 12/22/00).
As of February 2 the AMS sampling program for commodity beef has tested 103,547,107 pounds of ground beef from 17 vendors. Of the 1,170 tests performed, there were 9 failures for E. coli O157:H7 (a 0.77% failure rate) and 62 failures for Salmonella (a 5.3% failure rate). There were 39 failures of other microbial tests for a total of 110 failures and 7,820,396 pounds rejected.
Surprisingly prices at this time last year were roughly equivalent or even more than they were in the last few weeks. For example last week, USDA made purchases of coarse ground beef for $1.200 to $1.238 per pound, whereas in early February, 2000 purchases were made for $1.416 to $1.600. Fine ground purchases made the previous week were in nearly the same range a year ago.
Two USDA scientists have won a technology transfer award for providing the beef industry with a computer model that helps farmers and ranchers use up-to-date information to match feed and genetic resources to best meet market demands. Thomas Jenkins and Charles Williams are both Agricultural Research Service (ARS) animal scientists at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC). The computer model they developed is called the Decision Evaluator for the Cattle Industry (DECI). The latest DECI version was released in November and more than a thousand copies have been distributed to requesting individuals and organizations. For details you can contact the MARC at (402) 762-4247.
An animal physiologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Mohammad Koohmaraie, was named an “Outstanding Senior Research Scientist of 2000” for his research and project leadership to enhance meat quality and safety. Koohmaraie’s key accomplishments include leadership on meat tenderness research and ways to reduce pathogenic bacteria on meat.
NMA slaughterer members have inquired of our staff how they may best meet the needs of their customers for assurance that the livestock they slaughter have not been fed meat and bone meal from animal sources. NMA has learned that the feed industry and the rendering industry are moving ahead to provide additional assurances that ruminant derived meat and bone meal will not be used in beef, lamb or dairy feeds. The organizations representing these segments are apparently working together to facilitate the kinds of assurances which a number of packers have already called for. NMA will keep its slaughterer members informed about these efforts.
IBP is initiating a new program designed to help keep the U.S. cattle herd free of the disease BSE. Beginning March 1, 2001, IBP's network of cattle buyers will start asking cattle suppliers to sign an affidavit semi-annually verifying their cattle have not been fed “prohibited proteins” derived from ruminant animals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 banned the use of such ingredients in feed for ruminant animals such as cattle to prevent the introduction of BSE into the U.S. “While we are confident cattle producers are abiding by this FDA rule, we believe this certification program will provide added assurance to our customers and the consumer,” according to Gene Leman, chief executive officer of the IBP Fresh Meats Company.
Tyson Foods Inc. extended the expiration date of its cash offer for IBP stock until February 20. This is the second such extension. In late January, Tyson extended its cash offer to IBP shareholders until February 7 after learning that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would review the South Dakota company's financial records. IBP officials remain non-specific about details of the SEC's inquiry but say the questions involve previous account filings and acquisitions by IBP. “We are committed to finalizing this transaction,” Tyson said February 6. “However, we feel compelled to delay the close of the cash tender and the filing of the exchange offer documents until IBP's issues with the Securities and Exchange Commission are resolved.”
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
February 12, 2001
USDA MOVES FORWARD WITH Listeria RULE
The controversial proposed rule that is expected to require makers of ready-to-eat meat and poultry to test for Listeria in their plants will be released for public comment “in a matter of days,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman last week. The release of the Listeria rule so quickly comes as a bit of a surprise to many in the industry. The Agency announced the rules on January 19, President Clinton's last full day in office, but they were never published. So the Bush administration could have killed the proposals by leaving them on hold indefinitely or could have altered them significantly before seeking public comment.
Some in the industry had believed that the release of the proposed rule would be delayed to ensure that it is somewhat industry-friendly before it is published, as it may be more difficult to change controversial aspects of the regulations during the rulemaking process. In this regard, consumer groups, who have seen draft copies of the proposal, may have won an important victory: Once public, the proposal could gather crucial public relations momentum, Food Chemical News reported.
Veneman also last Wednesday announced her first personnel move since taking office, naming Dale Moore, a lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, as her chief of staff.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on January 30, 2001, issued a “Dear Manufacturer” letter to members of the food industry to reiterate specific requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the agency’s implementing regulations as they pertain to the use of novel ingredients, including botanicals, in conventional foods, and claims made for these ingredients. A copy of the letter is available at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/ds-ltr15.html. An “FDA Talk Paper” also is available at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/tpnovel.html. FDA issued its advice to address what it sees as a significant growth in the marketing of conventional foods containing novel ingredients.
FDA essentially advised as follows:
· Novel ingredients, including botanicals, used in conventional foods must be either used in accordance with a food additive regulation or generally recognized as safe (GRAS);
· Nutrient content claims and health claims may be made only in accordance with an authorizing regulation or pursuant to notification of FDA about an authoritative statement;
· Nutrient content claims, such as “high” and “more” may be made only for substances having an established daily value (DV), but claims may be made about the amount of a substance not having an established DV in a serving of a food as long as the amount is quantitatively specified;
· Structure/function claims may not explicitly or implicitly claim that a food or ingredient can diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure, or prevent a disease; and
· The benefit stated in a structure/function claim must be achieved from nutritive value.
The meat inspectors’ union said February 13 that it has appealed for a second time the ruling that will allow a modified HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP) to go forward. The union sued USDA in 1996 over the program, but lost in federal district court. It appealed the case, and the appeals court found that a USDA inspector must examine each animal carcass slaughtered for human consumption. USDA agreed to add a meat inspector at the end of each slaughter line, but the union contends the addition of a single inspector is not enough to comply with the law and ensure safe food.
A lead item in the Washington Post Federal Page's "Special Interests" column last week noted that former Secretary Glickman had joined Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P., one of the major lobbying and law firms in Washington. He will advise clients on food and food safety, health, biotechnology, and international trade.
Under the terms of the U.S. action against lamb imports from Australia and New Zealand, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is required to undertake a midterm (18-month) review. Since the review provides the President the opportunity to alter the remedy, including lifting the restrictions altogether, Australia and New Zealand are watching the review closely. Australian Senator Peter Cook called the lamb issue a litmus test for the Bush administration, Food Chemical News reported February 5. “In Washington, the Australian government should be pressing the new administration to use the internal review mechanism to remove restrictions immediately as part of its renewed commitment to trade liberalization,” said Cook.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has already ordered the United States to remove the tariffs, but if the U.S. decides to appeal that decision the final removal order might not come until after the tariffs were supposed to end anyway.
Nearly twenty organizations, including National Meat Association, co-signed a letter on February 6 to USDA Office of Management & Budget Director Mitchel Daniels to bring to his attention “the issue of “user fees” for meat, poultry and egg inspection.” The letter argued that user fees would be inappropriate and unworkable in the industry, not only because the inspection program benefits not the industry but the public, but also because they would provide little incentive for the government to manage its program costs, outcomes or efficiencies. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection has opposed user fees, the letter argued. NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow served on the committee at that time. The committee has strongly maintained its view that “the funding of basic meat and poultry inspection remains an appropriate federal government responsibility which should be funded from general tax revenues.” The letter concluded that “we know of no other consumer, farm, labor or industry organization, nor any other public policy group, which supports imposing a food tax for meat, poultry and egg inspection” and urged Daniels not to request user fees in the Administration’s budget submission to Congress. Past efforts to impose user fees for food safety inspection programs have been ignored, voted against or opposed by Congress. As recently as October 19, 1999, the House of Representatives rejected user fees for FY 2000, including those proposed for meat, poultry and egg inspection, by a vote of 410 to 0.