NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
April 30, 2001
IS FSIS LOOKING DOWN THE WRONG END OF THE TELESCOPE?
USDA’s rationale for the Salmonella performance standards (reprinted as it appeared in the Mega Reg in 1996 below) was that, while technology exists to reduce the levels of pathogens on carcasses, it does not exist in the production of ground meat. Given this rationale and the preventive philosophy which is behind PR/HACCP, logic would suggest that USDA’s best “bang for the regulatory buck” would be to target micro sampling/testing at sites where there are preventive technologies, not at the end point of grinding meat where there are none. Why hold grinders responsible for something they can’t control? Why make the assumption that industry specifications can accomplish something that USDA inspection cannot?
In defiance of simple logic FSIS, in its Progress Report on Salmonella Testing 1998-2000, reports (using only data from firms that passed the first time) testing 50,515 samples of ground beef, nearly ten times as many as the 5,783 samples of bovine carcasses. By its very own data, FSIS has applied its evaluation of the Salmonella standards in beef backwards, upside down and inside out. Truly, Agency officials appear to be looking down the wrong end of the telescope!
Benjamin Disraeli once said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics!
Federal Register July 25, 1996 pages 38846-38847:
“Slaughter establishments concerned that they might not meet the pathogen reduction performance standards have available a wide range of technologies shown to reduce the levels of pathogens that may be on the surface of cardasses. As discussed in some detail in the proposed rule, antimicrobial treatments normally include washes or sprays that use either hot water or a solution of water and a substance approved by FSIS for that use. Such substances include acids …trisodium phosphate, and chlorine. In addition, FSIS has recently established that spray-vacuum devices that apply pressurized steam or hot water to beef carcasses and immediately vacuum it up also are effective in reducing bacteria on carcasses.
“Establishments producing raw ground product from raw meat or poultry supplied by other establishments cannot use technologies for reducing pathogens that are designed for use on the surfaces of whole carcasses at the time of slaughter. Such establishments may require more control over incoming raw product, including contractual specifications to ensure that they begin their process with product that meets the standard, as well as careful adherence to their Sanitation SOP’s and HACCP plan.
“By basing its Salmonella performance standards on the current national baseline prevalence for each major species and product class, FSIS is applying a uniform policy principle; all establishments must achieve at least the current baseline level of performance with respect to Salmonella for the product classes they produce. This policy is based on the public health judgment that reducing the percentage of carcasses with Salmonella will reduce the risk of foodborne illness, and on the regulatory policy judgment that establishing for the first time a clear standard for Salmonella, in conjunction with the implementation of HACCP, will lead to significant reductions in contamination rates. This policy is not based on a quantitative assessment of the risk posed by any particular incidence of Salmonella contamination or the determination of a “safe” incidence or level. There is not currently a scientific basis for making such assessments or determinations. “
FIRST ELDERLY vCJD VICTIM
The death of a 74-year-old man in England from the human version of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), raised the specter of more deaths from vCJD having been misdiagnosed as dementia. All other victims of the disease had been decades younger. “This case has important implications for the surveillance of vCJD, and raises the possibility that cases of vCJD in the elderly might be missed,” doctors at the CJD Surveillance Unit that autopsied the victim wrote in a letter to The Lancet medical journal. Scientists still do not know how many people in England will ultimately die from the disease, which has a lengthy incubation period. Neither BSE nor vCJD have been identified in the U.S.
NMA ADVANCED HACCP SEMINAR
The deadline to sign up for NMA’s two-day Advanced HACCP course at a discount price is nearing. Call before May 1st and get $50 off. The course, set for May 22-23 in San Francisco, CA, is designed to provide plant managers, quality control, quality assurance and HACCP coordinators with the skills to improve the quality and efficiency of an establishment’s HACCP program. Attendees receive instruction on self-auditing of HACCP plans and systems, as well as methods for obtaining and evaluating process validation information. In addition, attendees will receive instruction in In-Depth Verification (IDV) review preparation. Instructors for the course are HACCP Consulting Group President Robert Savage and Vice President Mickey McEvers. Call NMA at (510) 763-1533 and sign up now!
INDIANA’S STEAK STORE
A small food retail chain in Indiana has stepped ahead of the herd with an all-meat concept that re-imagines traditional butcher shops for the new millennium. According to a report in last week’s Supermarket News, O’Malia Food Markets has used their novel new concept to cut itself a niche in a very tight market. “The independent took its flagship, service meat department and embellished it with related items in a store that’s a fraction the size of its seven full-line supermarkets, and the results are reportedly good,” wrote SN. It is even considering a second such meat market store. The store combines fresh meat with “a whole lot of things that would go just great with a steak dinner – like wine and fresh baked bread and Brie and blue cheese and bagged salads and baking potatoes,” wrote SN. O’Malia officials say that their biggest problem has been finding enough qualified meat cutters. Said Danny O’Malia, company president, “Yes, we’d open more [of these stores]. This could be a good way to get into some neighborhoods where we’ve been shut out by big competitors, but we need to find more meat cutters or train some ourselves. For this store, we had to take butchers out of three of our other stores.”
The Nicklaus North Golf Course has been the chosen site for NMA’s summer golf tournament on August 23, 2001. Located a few miles from the newly constructed Westin Resort and Spa in Whistler, B.C. Canada, golfers will truly enjoy the challenge and beauty of a Canadian golf course. National Meat Association’s Annual Summer Board Meeting and Conference will be held in the beautiful Westin, scheduled August 23-25, 2001. Registration information will be coming soon. Reserve those Dates!
Although Britain’s Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreak has abated somewhat, several news reports last week reiterated that there is a danger of the disease jumping to the U.S. and, in the words of USDA Plum Island Laboratory Director David Huxsoll, “It's only through the diligence of the people at the various ports of entry that we've been able to keep it out.” There are reports that many U.S. ranchers and dairymen are closing their farms to European visitors. USDA says it will compensate livestock producers for their losses if FMD enters the U.S., an important protection against the kind of delay that led to the severity of the outbreak in Britain, where more than two million livestock have had to be destroyed.
On April 25, Uruguay confirmed two cases of FMD in cattle just west of the city of Palmitas in the Department of Soriano. 29 more cases of the disease, not the same serotype as the European outbreak, have since been confirmed. For Uruguay, the outbreak was the second in six months. Until last October, Uruguay had been free of the disease for a decade. Uruguayan officals say that they have contained the FMD outbreak. Early containment is essential to avoid a full scale outbreak that could destroy exports. As it is, the day the crisis broke, Uruguayan President Jorge Batlle was in the Unites States asking President Bush to extend the quota of 20,000 tons of meat that Uruguay is allowed to export to the United States each year. Instead, the United States, along with Canada, Mexico and other countries, have banned meat imports from Uruguay.
National Meat Association will attend a meeting in Washington, DC this week to discuss crisis preparation. With FMD suddenly so prevelant throughout the world, it is imperative that the U.S. not only shore up its preventions, but also prepare for the event of an actual outbreak. If the virus spreads to our shores, it will be the first few days that will determine how far it will spread and how much economic damage it will cause.
USDA/FSIS released the print version of its 1999 “Report of the Secretary of Agriculture to the U.S. Congress” last week. The new report will be made available online in the next couple of weeks at www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/congress/congress.htm. The report includes details of FSIS’s District distribution and organization, as well as information about imports and exports, Agency programs, plants under inspection, goals and resources.
New research conducted by experts from the Harvard Medical School and other top universities suggests that elderly people who ate the most protein, regardless of their weight, smoking habits, calcium intake and use of estrogen, lost significantly less bone than those who ate the least. The findings suggest that protein may join the ranks of calcium and vitamin D in keeping bones strong and protecting against osteoporosis. Based on a study of 615 elderly people, the study was published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Further, excess amounts of protein from meat can tax the kidneys and cause the bones to lose calcium, the study notes. Some studies have suggested that very high levels of protein can interfere with calcium levels in the body, but ''this occurs primarily with extremely high levels of protein, not often seen in the elderly who are at the highest risk for osteoporosis,'' according to the report.
The Texas Beef Council (TBC) has introduced a new statewide logo, HERE’S THE BEEF. TBC says the logo, already in use in some recipe booklets and by some food companies, could be posted outside a cattle ranch entrance, on stationery and in a supermarket’s meat section.
Dr. John A. Jacobs began his university career at the University of Idaho in 1970 and served on the faculty until1981. He then joined the faculty in the Department of Animal Sciences and Agricultural Educatoin at California State University, Fresno where he continued to serve until his retirement in 2000. Dr. Jacobs is survived by his son and daughter. He will be missed by all of those who worked with him and learned from him.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) begins today a review of its study evaluating the potential health risks from dioxin. The Agency has already concluded that dioxin poses a health risk to humans, although officials do not agree on how significant that risk is, and says over 95% of human exposure to dioxins is through eating animal fats. “These deficiencies could, if not addressed correctly, cause unnecessary loss of consumer confidence in foods of animal origin, affecting both domestic markets and international trade,” 11 U.S. farm groups said in a joint letter sent to EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman last month. Last week the agency released a draft report, which is subject to revision over the next few weeks. The draft report was prepared by a 21-member advisory panel of university scientists, state health department officials, consultants and federal government scientists.
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
April 30, 2001
USDA Secretary Ann Veneman told Congress last week that Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) was in need of immediate repairs. She told reporters that she was looking into the possibility of completely reverting back to the voluntary system, but didn’t know if USDA had “the authority to do it.”
Various Congressional Representatives have come out in favor of revising or removing MPR. Representative Tom Latham (R-IA), an ardent proponent of MPR, told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture that the new system “obviously has not worked.” Meanwhile, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) attacked the 3/60 rule aspect of MPR.
National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) was forced to correct an error in the reports that occurred on April 23 when the reporting of the weighted average price for hogs in the Iowa-Southern Minnesota region. The price reported was $62.45, while the actual price was $63.94. Due to this discrepancy, producers whose marketing contracts were based on this report and who delivered hogs on that day were asked to carefully evaluate the payments they received.
Meanwhile, Urner Barry’s Yellow Sheet announced plans to provide its subscribers with more timely and accurate market quotations by listing Cattle-Fax cattle market data. “The addition of this data will put subscribers of Urner Barry’s Yellow Sheet at a distinct advantage to people using other forms of market information,” explained editor Joe Muldowney in a press statement.
NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow explained on a Des Moines radio station last week that the “rule of three” protects producers rather than hurts them when market reporters, under mandatory schemes, have no discretionary authority on slimly traded items.
On April 24, 2001 representatives of a new food safety coalition held a news conference to announce the formation of the Global Safe Food Alliance. The Alliance is said to represent more than a dozen consumer, faith-based, farm, animal welfare, labor, and environmental interest groups. According to the coalition’s press release, the group’s mission is to mobilize a large, broad-based grassroots movement to advocate for a food supply that is safe, wholesome, and humanely produced in a sustainable manner that benefits consumers, workers, farmers, animals and the environment. Felicia Nestor opened the group’s news conference by attacking HACCP. She admitted the system was a “model for food safety inspection around the globe” but blamed the way it was implemented here for failing to stem illnesses associated with foodborne illness.
Large corporate farms drew the group’s harshest criticism, whereas small, family-owned farms drew praise. The group’s explicit hope is to attract groups like the Western Organization of Resource Councils to support the alliance.
In its first official act, the group has sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson and Secretary of Agriculture Anne Veneman requesting that the FDA and USDA “take action beyond what has already been done to address mad cow disease.” This despite the fact that no cases of BSE have been identified in the U.S. nor in our major trading partners, New Zealand and Australia.
A survey released last week by Porter Novelli, a public relations firm, concluded that consumer misconceptions about BSE and FMD may begin to impact beef purchases. But Porter Novelli may have asked the wrong questions. The survey said that 14% of those surveyed had already changed their food purchases or eating habits based on reports they had heard regarding BSE and FMD. 19% thought the two diseases were the same, 27% thought there was at least a link between the two diseases and 46% thought that cows with FMD could infect humans, all of which is untrue. Unfortunately, the survey’s design may have biased consumers' top of mind concerns. For example, the first substantive question was: “Have you changed your family's food purchases or eating habits because of anything you've seen or heard in the news recently regarding Foot and Mouth Disease; or BSE, sometimes known as Mad Cow Disease?” This not only translates to a consumer as “you probably should be worried about these animal diseases” but it also inextricably links them. The survey does illustrate that respondents picked U.S. government agencies as their primary source of food safety information which is probably accurate.
Porter Novelli Director Dan Snyder concluded based on the study that “American consumers understandably are very confused.” He also concluded in the need to have a national consumer education campaign to clear up the confusion. While less confusion is always good, it is not at all clear that that is really what consumers want. Nor is it clear how successful such an effort would be with something this confused. Instead, consumers appear to be seeking assurances.
A separate study by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) revealed that, although awareness of the mad cow issue has dramatically increased in the past four months, consumers’ confidence in the safety of American beef also has increased. In December 2000, 82% of consumers expressed confidence in the safety of U.S. beef. This grew to 87% in February 2001 and declined slightly to 85% in April 2001, a statistically insignificant drop.
This suggests that what consumers really want to know is that food is safe and that they can trust the USDA to tell them that.
April 3, FSIS issued Directive 9020.1, Meat and Poultry Products Entry Into the U.S., which provides instructions to inspection personnel on documentation and disposition of imported meat and poultry products refused entry. The Directive also includes measures required for bringing products into compliance with FSIS requirements. FSIS has put the full Directive on the web at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/9020.1.pdf.
FSIS extending the comment period for the proposed rulemaking on Nutrition Labeling of
Ground or Chopped Meat and Poultry Products and Single-Ingredient Products. Comments will now be accepted until July 17.
USDA’S Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking public comment on its draft Scrapie Eradication Uniform Methods and Rules. You may request a copy from Dr. Diane Sutton at (301) 734-6954 or take it from APHIS’s website (linked from NMAonline.org). Comments are due June 19.
President George W. Bush sent two more Agriculture nominations to the Senate last week. He’s picked Lou Gallegos of New Mexico and Mary Kirtley Waters of Virginia to be Assistant Secretaries of Agriculture.