NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
March 26, 2001
FMD: WHAT IF IT HAPPENED HERE?
Three months before Britain's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), top health officials in the United States, Mexico and Canada conducted a dress rehearsal to test their ability to respond to a similar epidemic, says a recent Associated Press report. Within four days of a simulated detection in a small south Texas swine herd, the virus would have spread through 15 Texas counties and Mexico, and an estimated 10,000 animals would have been infected. The scenario turned out to be eerily similar to the way the real epidemic is now playing out in Europe. “It's like waging war. You're fighting a virus that is very formidable,” said one participant, Beth Lautner, a veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council. In the county where the fictional outbreak originated, the damages to farmers were estimated at $50 million. Health officials voiced concern about how fast the government could compensate farmers for animals that would have to be destroyed. History has shown farmers more likely to comply quickly if they know they will not face economic ruin (see sidebar).
Joe Annelli, chief of emergency veterinary programs in USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service told AP that the department has identified 200 private veterinarians who would be hired immediately as federal employees if an outbreak occurs, a call-up comparable to National Guard members responding to a natural disaster. The inspection service already has 400 veterinarians on staff.
The U.S. has not had a case of FMD since 1929, and that occurrence was contained and eradicated quickly. The most obvious signs of the disease in animals are excessive slobbering, going off feed and lameness. Affected animals have a sudden rise in temperature, followed by blisters in the mouth and on the feet near the hooves. FMD does not affect humans, but for animals it is nearly 100% infectious. If FMD were to occur in the U.S., said the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in a Q&A release, the degree of economic impact would depend on how quickly the disease was identified and eradicated. The damage might be small or, if the disease were widespread, the damage might easily run into the billions of dollars.
(excerpted from The ‘Significant Sixty’ published in 1952 by the National Provisioner)
Foot-and-Mouth disease in a virulent form had become well established over a fairly wide area in the United States during the early winter of 1914 before the Department of Agriculture spotted the outbreak and mobilized against it. Six states were immediately quarantined and the Chicago, East St. Louis and other yards placed under the interdict.
The Department experienced greater difficulty in eradicating the disease during 1914-15 than ever before. By February 1, 1915, eighteen states were involved and in mid-month the BAI [Bureau of Animal Industry] closed 13 major stockyards for disinfections. Through the spring and summer of 1915 areas and markets were removed and replaced on the quarantine list as the epidemic died down and flared up.
One center of trouble was the state of Illinois where, on two occasions, the destruction of infected herds was blocked by injunction. Illinois farmers chased some “U.S. officers from their premises with pitchforks and shotguns.”
Meat plant operations at various markets were interrupted sporadically. One sore point with the packing industry was the refusal of the Department of Agriculture to compensate processors for condemnations, while paying farmers 50 per cent of the value of livestock destroyed.
One of the things that had baffled scientists about new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD or vCJD), the human version of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), may have been explained last week. In one village in Central England, Queniborough, there was a cluster of vCJD deaths, and for a long time nobody could determine why. An inquiry team investigated numerous potential risk factors, Reuters reported. It turns out patients were 15 times more likely to have eaten beef purchased from butchers who removed the cow’s brain themselves than a comparison group of healthy people. The hypothesis is then that the beef had been contaminated by bovine brain. Researchers called the results “statistically significant” and “unlikely to be a chance finding.” The findings, if correct, confirm that the disease has a long incubation period, between 10 and 16 years.
The California State University, Fresno Professor who encouraged his students to enter their Bulldog Pepper Jack Sausage in the Sausagefest wrote NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow a letter of thanks and praise. “As a new instructor at California State University, Fresno I am always struggling with ways to get students to interact with professionals in the industry,” wrote Associate Professor John Henson. “As a former industry member, I know how difficult it is to find highly trained new talent. This opportunity gave us the forum to blend the two and strengthen relationships with industry and more specifically your members.” It also gave his students the opportunity to win the ‘Hold the Mustard’ award for their deserving sausage product. “As always,” concluded Henson, “[NMA’s MEATXPO] was well run and the perfect blend of science and technology to help your members prepare for current issues. CSU, Fresno is excited to have the opportunity to be involved in your organization and we are always ready and willing to help NMA and its members in any way possible.”
MCDONALDS GIVEN A WARNING LIGHT BY INVESTMENT FIRM
Moody’s Investment Services downgraded McDonald’s debt rating from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ last week. A negative ratings outlook does not mean a rate cut; it does mean that conditions are present that a rate cut may be necessary soon. The problem is a sales dip linked to the indelible spread in Europe of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). McDonald’s warned two weeks ago that 2001 per-share earnings would likely be lower than expected (see last week’s Lean Trimmings). Moody's told Reuters that “McDonald's ratings continue to reflect the strength of the McDonald's brands, management's forward looking strategic planning, as well as the company's geographic diversity, [and] stable cash flow.” McDonald's said last week it is taking several measures to counteract the effects of the diseases and drive sales higher, including the development of more non-beef menus in Europe.
In the United Kingdom, the number of sites infected with foot and mouth disease could rise by 70 per day over the next two weeks, or nearly 1,000 sites, a report prepared for the Ministry of Agriculture said. The number of infected sites, now 490, could rise to 4,000 by June, and the government said it was now considering vaccinating animals, despite fears such a move would devastate trade. Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said the disease had already cost Britain about $243 million, and the toll in lost livestock and meat trade could reach $815 million, said Robin Bell, head of the agriculture ministry's trade team. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has apparently asked for a “firewall cull” and told the team to speed up the killing to 24 hours from the time an infection is confirmed. More than 480,000 animals have already been slaughtered or condemned officially making this epidemic worse than the 1967 outbreak, previously the most dire in recent memory. Scientists predict the crisis could drag on for months, even up to the end of the summer. It may mean killing up to 31 million animals, one half of the country's herds.
Whereas USDA had said that the ban on Eurpean meat and livestock would last 15 days, chief of staff Dale Moore now says that USDA will not even consider altering the current foot-and-mouth ban until the outbreak reaches “a peak, which has not been reached yet.”
On Friday, March 23, a Montana Bill that would require retailers to post signs regarding the country of origin for grains, honey, beef, pork, poultry and lamb, as well as products containing these ingredients, was voted out of the Montana House Agriculture Committee on a 14-5 vote. However, the bill’s author has since accepted amendments to provide for a delayed implementation date of July 2003 with regulations promulgated six months prior, providing the Legislature the ability to review the rules and address concerns during the 2003 legislative session. Additionally, the author amended the bill to remove fines and added fresh fruits and vegetables back to the list of products for which signs will be required. If the amended bill passes the House it will be sent to a conference committee.
Allegations of food safety violations caused by corruption, poor management and even possible attempts to derail investigations have prompted a joint USDA/Congressional review of meat inspection in New York and New Jersey. Allegations also include retaliation against whistleblowers. The apparent focus of the probe is the meatpacking district known as the 14th Street Market in Manhatten. The probe has already led to the shuttering of three wholesale meat markets, and officials are refusing to disclore how many more might be shut or any of details from the investigation. However, USDA General Inspector Roger Viadero did tell the Sentate Agriculture Committee in a hearing on March 22 that when his staff arrived at the scene of a refrigeration failure at a meat market in Manhattan, they found only one “apparently drunk” local inspector at the scene. He added that, although formal charges have been filed, at least 10 investigations are underway into New York’s meat inspection. Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Richard Lugar told the press that “if charges are accurate, mismanagement and alleged illegal activity may have increased food poisoning risks.” The area’s District Manager, George Pucha, has been reassigned during the probe.
Joe Kaeslin, formerly associated with Alpine Packing Co. and Made-Rite Prepared Meats, died at his home on March 18, 2001. He was 58 years old. Joe served as a Director of Western States Meat Association during the 1980s, and more recently as a Director of the California Beef Council.
Joe was a caring, kind man with a strong sense of family. Despite his illness, he lived to walk his daughter down the aisle at her marriage in December. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Norma and her family, and to his mother, Laura kaeslin and his brother and sisters.
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
March 26, 2001
NEW SPECS FOR THE SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
Dr. Ken Clayton, Acting Administrator of AMS, told attendees at the annual convention of American Commodities Distribution Association (ACDA) today in Greensboro, NC, that his agency will be announcing new specifications for its commodity ground beef program later this week. The changes will include: One additional anti-microbial intervention step at slaughter (for a total of two such intervention steps) and a testing program for carcasses for E. coli O157:H7.
For boning operations, a QC program effective in meeting micro spec limits for indicator microorganisms will be required. Processors that exceed the statistical process control limits or exceed the critical limits more than 5% of the time will become “conditional” and product from conditional suppliers that fail the critical limits will be rejected. Conditional suppliers that are unable to meet the specified limits within 30 production days will be deemed ineligible. USDA will verify process control through audits, including random testing.
For grinders, USDA will develop a grinder's quality history by testing the first 20 production lots of ground meat. If the results are within specified limits, the grinder will be deemed eligible and USDA will test no less than 20% of finished ground meat for indicator microorganisms to verify effectiveness. If the first 20 production lots exceed the limits, or exceed the critical limits of the specs more than 5% of the time, they will become a conditional supplier. Product from conditional suppliers will be tested and controlled and all meat exceeding the critical limits rejected. Conditional suppliers that are unable to meet the specified limits within 30 production days will be deemed ineligible.
Testing for E. coli O157:H7 will continue daily, and any lot reported positive will be rejected. Product to be cooked or irradiated under FSIS inspection will not be tested. Please take note that this is all preliminary information at this time. It is expected that the complete specs will be available at the USDA/AMS website by the week's end.
Federal agents March 21 swarmed a Vermont farm where sheep possibly harboring a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) were housed. “They’ve got 34 cop cars up there, guys with bulletproof vests running around at the end of a 2-mile private road. It’s dead quiet. All you can see is these idiots running around with their black Suburbans,” Davis Buckley, a lawyer for the owners of a similar flock, told Reuters while the raid was taking place.
Craig Reed, administrator of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), explained that the USDA had “no choice but to take this decisive action based on the threat the sheep pose to the health of America’s livestock nationwide.” The sheep owners had been offered up to $2.4 million for their flocks last year, hugely more than they will likely receive through condemnation action.
Three new USDA Under Secretary positions have been filled: J.B. Penn, senior vice president of Sparks Companies was named as Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services; Thomas Dorr, president and CEO of Dorr’s Pine Grove Farm Company was named as Under Secretary for Rural Development; and Eric Bost, commisioner and CEO of Texas Department of Human Sercives, was named as Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.
BUSH SIGNS ERGONOMICS REPEAL
Bush signed the Congressional repeal of the Occupational Health & Safety Administration’s (OSHA) national ergonomics standard on March 20. He agreed with the majority of industry when he said the standard included “overwhelming compliance challenges.” Business leaders said the expense of the regulations could have topped $100 billion per year.
PUBLIC MEETING ON DRAFT RISK ASSESSMENT FOR Listeria
On March 19, 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a public meeting to receive comments on technical aspects of their draft risk assessment and risk management action plan for foodborne Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Draft Assessment of the Relative Risk to Public Health from Foodborne Listeria monocytogenes Among Selected Categories of Ready-to-Eat Foods (available at www.foodsafety.gov/~dms/lmrisk.html); Joint Response to the President: Reducing the Risk of Listeria monocytogenes (available at www.foodsafety.gov/~dms/lmriplan.html). Dr. Paul Mead, CDC, began the meeting with an overview of foodborne Lm. Dr. Robert Buchanan, FDA, presented an overview of the draft risk assessment. The risk assessment estimates the risk of listeriosis from consumption of selected categories of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods. The draft risk assessment considers risk of listeriosis in three age groups: perinatal (16 weeks after fertilization to 30 days after birth), elderly (60+), and intermediate-age (30 days to 60 years, including persons with compromised immune systems). It concludes that listeriosis is primarily a disease that affects specific “at-risk” groups, including pregnant women and fetuses, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
Four food groups, ranging from high to low risk, were devised. Foods such as meat spreads or smoked seafood, which do not receive treatment which kills Listeria were at the high end, whereas ice cream and aged cheese, with inherent protections, were at the low end. Dry-semi-dry fermented sausages were placed in a high uncertainty group, whereas hotdogs were considered lower risk due to their processing.
SUPREME COURT LIMITS WORKER LAWSUITS
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that employers can ask that their employees sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment and that employees cannot rely on state laws to challenge such agreements which prevent them from going to court. William J. Emanual, a Los Angeles attorney representing the Employers Group, with 5,000 California companies, called the ruling “a tremendous victory for employers, especially in California.”
Senate Agriculture Appropriations hearing schedule (tentative)
April 25, 1:30pm, Ag Secretary Veneman, general
May 3, 10:00am, Keith Collins and USDA Undersecretaries, assistance to producers and the farm economy
May 10, 10:00am, FDA