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

March 5, 2001




Much has been made in recent years about the need to move food inspection systems to look for microorganisms, and away from what was termed the “poke and sniff” of the traditional methods. The current concerns about food safety internationally are stark reminders that there are two elements needed in meat inspection systems. They are a determination that the livestock entering the system is fit for the food supply, and that the meat be handled in a hygienic manner. Both elements can and should be supported by chemical and microbiological testing systems, but there is no good substitute for the basic organoleptic inspection system.


Take Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) for example. Livestock that are suspect for BSE disease are likely to display neurological dysfunctions. The USDA, over the past decade, has specifically identified suspect livestock at or before ante-mortem inspection by its trained “poke and sniff” specialists, mostly veterinarians who are trained just like medical doctors to identify disease by organoleptic evaluation. Targeted testing of the 12,000 most probable livestock has turned up no bovine with the disease. The practices which appear to contribute to development of the disease are not, and have not been permitted, in the U.S. for years. Nevertheless, stringent precautionary measures are being taken to reinforce the ban on possible feeding of bovine livestock with mammalian meat and bone meal.


The relentless spread in Europe of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is of great concern. In the United States, each State Veterinarian is closely linked to USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of USDA. The former Deputy Administrator of FSIS for Field Operations, Dr. Craig Reed, a veterinarian, is Administrator of APHIS. His agency has enormous responsibility to enforce preventive measures to protect U. S. citizens from the entry of livestock and avian disease. That’s why they inspect the bags of travelers at port of entry with the beagle dogs trained to sniff out your baggage that may contain food. Because FMD can arrive on the soles of people’s shoes or on their clothes, travelers are asked whether they have visited farms. These interrogations are much more meaningful today, with so much FMD being reported in Europe. All food that remains on international flights is incinerated at U.S. port of entry for the same basic reasons.


The organoleptic inspection of livestock that are entering the food supply is a critical element of the inspection system, and is as important in 2001 as it was in 1906 when the federal meat inspection act was written. Those who describe organoleptic inspection in menial and derogatory terms are just plain wrong. The current global concern with BSE and FMD is just one more reminder of its value in a food inspection system.




L.A. Times journalist Emily Green, who spoke at NMA’s General Session panel during MEATXPO’01, has written an outstanding history and analysis of the mad cow crisis. Available currently at, the story covers Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) as it has affected Europe and, by proxy, the United States. Link to the story from


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Tyson last week again delayed its much debated purchase of IBP, not only that but it is actually ejecting part of the program. The company said it will drop a tender offer for 50.1% of IBP and work instead on a cash election merger in which IBP investors can choose cash or Tyson stock for their shares in the proposed $3.2 billion deal. “What this does is allow them to delay the process,” Midwest Research analyst Christine McCracken told Reuters. “It really doesn't change anything.”


Once IBP has come to a resolution with the SEC, Tyson will determine what effect the investigation has on its proposed acquisition. Last week, IBP said it will take a one-time charge of up to $108 million and may take additional charges as part of the SEC probe which includes the DFG acquisition.




The percentage of American workers who belong to unions continued to decline last year, down .4% to 13.5% between 1999 and 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The membership rate was 20.1% in 1983, the first year that such data was recorded. However, government workers continue to have a higher unionization rate, at 37.5%, than workers in the private sector, at 9.0%.




Another country in Europe has lost the right to claim BSE-free status. Actually, Spain detected two cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) last year, but refused to believe that it had been infiltrated by the dread disease, claiming instead that the cases were isolated. But after the European Union required tests on January 1, the number of cases jumped to 17. Spain now knows that it was only BSE-free because it wasn’t looking hard enough, the Wall Street Journal  reported. But on February 22, Spanish scientists said they had developed a way of detecting the use of animal-based feed in live cattle and in beef products. The new testing system is likely to be launched commercially later this year, said Antonio Delgado, one of the two scientists from the Spanish government's Superior Council of Scientific Investigation who developed the method. It seeks to determine the diet of cattle by examining samples of tissue for nitrogen isotopes. “The most important thing is that a vet can take a sample of bone or hair or other material containing proteins and know what it has been fed without having to destroy the animal,” Delgado told Reuters. “Supermarkets can also do the test on meat from their cold rooms,” he said.


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ACDI/VOCA delivered NMA a Certificate of Appreciation February 28 for allowing them to exhibit and assisting them at MEATXPO’01. “The Exposition was very successful,” said ACDI/VOCA-California Regional Manager Kenton Ayers in a letter to NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow. “We know we could not possibly accomplish the goals we set without the generous support of National Meat Association and people like you. These words seem very insignificant in view of the time and effort you give us, but please know we sincerely appreciate your contributions. ACDI/VOCA-California need and depend on special people … and you are indeed special!”


Several NMA contacts have assisted ACDI/VOCA in its mission to aid developing countries. Those who have given assistance include NMA Honorary Director Phil Bauer, Associate Consultant member Peter Tancredi, and former Executive Director of the California Beef Council Jane Anderson.




FSIS is now offering to inform plants of all microbiological test results by e-mail, Food Chemical News reported February 12. This should speed up the pace for plants in need of critical information on the status of sampled products. FSIS has used e-mail to inform processors of negative microbiological test results since 1995. Now test results positive or negative will be sent as soon as the analyses are complete. Test results will only be sent to the plant manager or a designee and the FSIS officials in the plant. Since the e-mail systems that are used by some companies are not compatible with those used by FSIS labs there will be some lag time while the system is upgraded. Also, this reporting does not include results for Salmonella Performance Standard testing, which is reported by ‘set’ rather than individual samples. Plants interested in participating should contact Vicki Anthony at (202) 690-6382 to get in the loop.




NMA's Board of Directors and their guests will visit Washington, DC on April 3-5, 2001. Rooms have been reserved until March 5 at the Capital Hilton Hotel. National Meat Association’s presence in Washington is very important – if you’re interested in joining us, contact NMA Communications Manager Jeremy Russell at (510) 763-1533.


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In reporting the new directors which were announced at MEATXPO’O1 (see last week’s Ahead of the Herd), the allied/associate directors were overlooked. Both Damon Swanson of Birko Corp. and Mike Gangel of CHAD Co. were nominated to a 1st term. We apologize for this oversight.




Ongoing studies conducted by Kansas State University reveal that dried plum puree and fresh plum juice, when added to ground beef, can suppress bacteria. Five days after inoculation, the raw beef samples containing dried plum puree or fresh plum juice exhibited significantly fewer microorganisms than control samples. In fact, the research says a 3% use rate is adequate to suppress pathogens; 3-5% is the best range for moisture retention and texture enhancement. For further information contact the California Dried Plum Board’s food technology program at (916) 565-6232 or visit




As the rapidly growing global population increases the demand for food, it’s frequently suggested that livestock and poultry are actually depleting the world food supply through inefficient conversion of nutrition. G. Eric Bradford, professor emeritus in the U.C. Davis Department of Animal Science, argued at a symposium on February 16, that this simply is not true. Livestock consume not only grain but large quantities of feeds that are inedible to humans such as crop residues, byproducts of food and fiber processing, and forage from land unsuitable for farming. In doing so, they make a net contribution to the food supply and help recycle nutrients and byproducts that otherwise would have to be disposed of. The best available estimates indicate that feeding human-edible feeds to food-animals results in a slight reduction in the total human food supply, but is balanced by the yield of meat, milk and eggs that are of higher nutrient density than the grains those animals consumed. (See also “The Grain Debate,” Lean Trimmings 1/8/01).





Cedar Hollow Foods

Lincoln, NE


Vintage Foods, L.P.

Pico Rivera, CA



SureBeam Corp.

San Diego, CA


Scanvaegt USA Inc.

Gainesville, GA


Composite Technologies Corp.

Oakbrook, IL


McCormick Co.

Des Moines, IA



Foster Farms

Livingston, CA


Food Capital Management Group

New Port Beach, CA



A new NMA Fax Alert on BSE is available at Check it out if you haven’t already!



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 5, 2001




FSIS published last week in the Federal Register its proposed rule that stipulates testing requirements for Ready-to-Eat (RTE) foods. The rule as written proposes lethality/stabilization standards for all RTE products, as well as stabilization standards for heat treated products. It also contains the mandatory testing requirement for Listeria.


The Listeria testing requirement would include testing of product contact surfaces at establishments manufacturing RTE products initially only at plants that have NOT identified Listeria monocytogenes as a food safety hazard reasonably likely to occur after the lethality treatment and has NOT implemented at least one control. Establishments with a Critical Control Point (CCP) placed in their HACCP plan where the Agency wants to see it, that is after the kill step, would not be required to test.


RTE plants that don’t have such a CCP are to be required to conduct monthly testing of an amount determined by plant size. For plants with 500 or more employees that frequency would be four tests per RTE line; for plants with 10-499 employees the frequency would be two tests per RTE line; and for plants with less than 10 employees it would be once per RTE line. In the event of contamination being discovered by these mandatory tests, a plant would be required to act according to 9 CFR 416.15. They would have to determine the lot implicated, hold, sample and test it and then dispose of affected product.


There is a 90-day comment period on this proposed rule, and a public meeting is also being scheduled. For an Olsson, Frank & Weeda summery of the rule, send a self-addressed, stamped (34˘) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request.




Speaking to NMA’s Board of Directors during MEATXPO’01, FSIS Associate Director Margaret Glavin covered everything from the HACCP “Next Steps” initiative to the red hot issue of workplace violence. It is perhaps this latter area in which her comments were most intriguing. She revealed that two efforts are currently underway to improve the work environment, the first being a Workplace Violence Prevention Taskforce, established last August, and the second being an agreement with the Milbank Memorial Fund. The Taskforce has recommended the purchase of protective jackets to be available to compliance officers who accompany law enforcement to “an establishment with a dangerous environment.” The Milbank Memorial Fund agreement reaches out to others who work in the food safety workplace and includes participants from industry, consumer groups, FSIS and labor and employee organizations, among others. Other topics Glavin discussed were residue testing, risk-based resource allocation and the RTE proposal (see above). About the RTE proposal, Glavin said the Agency is specifically seeking information on appropriate environmental testing and the potential Listeria growth in products which have been shipped.


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National Meat Association joined several other industry groups in calling for a 90-day extension of the comment period for FSIS’s proposed rule on nutrition labeling of ground and single ingredient meat and poultry products.  In a letter to FSIS Administrator Tom Billy, the industry groups wrote, “In order to respond fully to the proposal, including the Department’s numerous requests for information, the signatories to this letter will need to conduct research, gather information from our memberships, and analyze the results and responses.”


Under the proposed rule, nutrition information for major cuts of single ingredient products such as steaks, pork tenderloin, and chicken and turkey meats will be required either on the label by the manufacturer or by the retailer at the point of purchase. The proposed requirement stems from the voluntary nutrition labeling regulation that stipulates if less than 60% of companies are voluntarily providing this information, FSIS was to require nutrition labeling. “In the last two surveys in 1996 and 1999, less than 60% of the companies evaluated were found to be participating in the voluntary nutrition labeling program,” FSIS said in a statement.




A report in the Wall Street Journal March 2, detailed how two trends in seafood are coming together with potentially disastrous effect. The first is the trend for restaurant goers and even some home consumers to eat undercooked or raw seafood. Publicity about the health benefits of fish has led to a 25% increase in restaurant revenue which comes directly from seafood in the last three years. Not coincidentally, the number of sushi restaurants has quadrupled in the last 10 years. The second trend was noted last month by the FDA, who reported that more than half of surveyed food handlers in the seafood industry ignore that Agency’s seafood-safety guidelines. Consumer groups have begun calling for reform, citing evidence that seafood causes the majority of foodborne illnesses (see Lean Trimmings 8/21/00). Some states, following in the footsteps of Missouri and Massachusetts who have already required posted warnings, are considering legislation. Even some chefs are backing down on the undercooked trend. But it is still remarkable to see the difference that a species makes. If such reports were directed at beef, we need only look back at the last year to see how fast and furious the press coverage would be.




A coalition of pork producers sued USDA last month after hog farmers voted to end the government's $54 million pork checkoff program. A settlement, which will continue the checkoff program, was reached by USDA and the producer groups last week. Farmers voted 15,951 to 14,396 to kill the program in a referendum, but the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), which has been partially funded through the fee, contended the referendum was unfair and convinced a federal judge in Michigan to temporarily block the department from shutting down the program. The settlement agreement will require a distinct separation between NPPC and the National Pork Board – and particularly checkoff-funded programming and noncheckoff-funded policy initiatives. “NPPC has agreed to this settlement for a simple but extremely important reason,” said NPPC. “This settlement fulfills our overarching goal of continuing the highly effective pork checkoff for the benefit of every pork producer.”


The settlement will be followed up with a survey in 2003 to decide continuation of the program and is unlikely to end litigation as opponents will likely file suit to end the program. “Hog farmers voted for termination,” said Rhonda Perry, a Missouri producer who has led a campaign against the fee. “We're seeing this basically as USDA declaring war against independent hog farmers around the country by not implementing the termination procedures.”