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

May 14, 2001




Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Honoring mothers (and fathers) is an annual ritual of love and respect for those who gave us life and who expect and plan for our development and growth into responsible adults. There isn't a "nanny" ritual. Nannies are customarily individuals who take charge of children under the oversight of parents, and who oversee short term spans of youthful life. There is a huge difference between mothers and nannies!


There is a nanny culture at work in Washington. It is determined, as good nannies should be, to fix the problem for its charges. One of the nanny culture's goals is to make food safe no matter how it is handled. In the nanny's mind, it is the responsibility of the food industry, and even more focused, the meat and poultry industry, to assure that it is absolutely safe to consume, no if's, and's or but's! The nanny culture has set the bar this high, even though it knows that you can not manage some food safety hazards in raw, not-ready-to-eat (NRTE) meat and poultry.


Scientific principles support process controls to ensure that the raw meat and poultry supply maintains consistently low levels of indicator microorganisms that are present in raw meat and poultry. Spikes or significant variations are cause for investigation. Zero tolerance (ZT) for invisible pathogens is not an attainable goal for NRTE meat and poultry products. Last year, then Ag Secretary Glickman set a ZT Salmonella standard the USDA commodity ground beef. It is so random that it is meaningless, other than initiating the destruction of over 9 million pounds of ground beef in the buying year just winding up. Over 9% of the samples failed the test. Some traditional vendors didn't participate in the program at all, and the USDA paid about 40% more for the product it bought, and purchased about 40% less beef, no ground pork or ground turkey. Schools that wanted these alternate products went to the commercial sector, by-passing the commodity program which has specs to support the school distribution system (e.g. psychotropic counts to show that the product has viability for lengthy freezer storage).


Over at FSIS, where the performance standard (PS) is based on a flawed baseline study not designed for the purpose of setting a PS, the nanny culture persists in proselytizing that it is saving consumers from Salmonella contamination by rigidly holding grinders responsible for levels of Salmonella in their ground meat. This despite the fact that the most likely cause of any Salmonella contamination occurs during the USDA inspected slaughter process, where the FSIS does much less Salmonella testing.


All NRTE meat and poultry bears labeling that reinforces proper storage and handling for consumers. An appropriate initiative by the government to guide consumers would be to reinforce this handling statement if it is found insufficient. The government has the ability to undertake public service announcements in the media, and through many organizations, to encourage better handling of NRTE foods, including fish, dairy products, meat and poultry. It has the ability to transmit messages at all levels of society, from the young to the old. The nanny culture, however, has focused on the inspected meat and poultry industry as the toll gate for measuring safety, and has used and continues to apply, standards that are scientifically flawed. Applying the old parable, the nannies would give a man a fish and expect a miracle; a mother knows its best to teach consumers how to catch, clean and cook their own fish safely.


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An outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease hit Brazil last week. Worried that the disease would spread, Brazil said it would begin vaccinating 4.1 million cattle in Rio Grande do Sul, the country's prime cattle-raising state. The agriculture ministry has for the time being ruled out slaughtering unaffected animals. “We're only going to destroy those animals that have the virus,” Pratini said. Authorities slaughtered about 11,000 animals, hoping that would stop the spread of an earlier outbreak last August. It is believe that the two outbreaks are related.




Britain is near enough to the end of its FMD crisis that Prime Minister Tony Blair declared it near victory, but the price of the victory has not come cheap. The Wall Street Journal noted that Foot-and-Mouth Disease expert and adviser to the British government, Gareth Davies, argued last week that the livestock industry should bear more of the burden of preventing outbreaks, not taxpayers, because it reduces incentives. In a BBC documentary aired last week, Army Brigadier Alex Birtwistle, who spearheaded the British animal bull, alleged that farmers in England had intentionally broken transit rules during the height of the outbreak to deliberately infect their stock or to hide them from slaughter. “People are still transiting sheep illegally and there's strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that is the case,” he said. “Either to infect them so they can claim compensation, or simply to keep sheep they haven't previously declared one step ahead of the cull process. And it's so bloody annoying. So bloody annoying. You know everyone's worked 20-hour days and it's devastated the whole area and people are still moving sheep without a license. I mean we've killed 400,000 sheep in the cull to try and stop the disease spreading and there are other buggers taking it outside the area.” A National Farmers' Union spokesman insisted there was no evidence to back-up the allegations, but did admit there had been “isolated” cases of animal movements.


Another lesson reported in the Wall Street Journal is that vaccines have to be used along with eradication. While cost prohibitive when the disease is not found, it could prove beneficial to vaccinate healthy animals rather than slaughter them when it is found. Davies also argued that trade rules which prohibit importation of vaccinated animals need to be reconsidered, because vaccines for the dread disease are improving.




Retail beef prices will be higher this year because of “a combination of reduced supplies and the continued demand for the high quality beef cuts,” USDA economist Annette Clauson told the Associated Press. USDA predicted that cattle prices will average $74 to $78 per hundred pounds this year, up from $69.65 last year. The department expects retail beef prices to rise 3-4 % this year. However, prices for broilers, eggs and milk are expected to be higher as well.


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NMA Member SureBeam Corporation, innovator of the nation's first electronic pasteurization, announced April 19 that NMA Member Square-H Brands, Inc. had signed a multiyear agreement to evaluate the use of SureBeam's technology on its product lines. Then on May 7 the irradiation concern announced that it had signed an in-line system electronic pasteurization services agreement with Excel Corporation. Similar to a microwave oven, the SureBeam electronic pasteurization system uses ordinary electricity as its energy source to pasteurize food after it has been processed and packaged, helping to eliminate in seconds the threat of harmful food-borne bacteria without affecting the food's quality. More and more meat companies are signing on for this added prevention against microbial contamination.


Consumer Groups, normally in favor of preventions which benefit consumers, have turned their back on the benefits of irradiation. A report in the Chicago Tribune last week came down particularly harshly on the pasteurization process, claiming that companies which do not choose to use the term ‘irradiation’ on the product promotion (even though labeling is required on every package) are acting deceptively. Omaha Steaks, which was recently sued for omitting the term from its website, pointed out: “We're doing something in the customers' best interests because we've made them the safest burgers available.”


Dr. Allan Forbes, a past director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Nutrition and Food Sciences, was quoted in the Guest Choice Network's newsletter that “[f]ood irradiation is safe beyond the slightest question and could make food safer too … it's clear to me that these groups make their living by creating fear about issues like this.” The Guest Choice Network, a group which decries today's culture of nannies, also called the Chicago Tribune article a “cheap shot.”


Cattle Buyers Weekly reports this week that a USDA study shows that 50% of consumers would buy irradiated meat and 25% would consider paying a premium for it. Even the negative report in the Tribune admitted that proponents believe that “an education is all that is needed to persuade consumers and quiet the critics.” Nevertheless, irradiated meat may always be a niche market.


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A new report from the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization in Geneva represents a sweeping victory for the appeal of Australia and New Zealand against the United States International Trade Commission's imposition of tariffs and quotas on imports of lamb meat.  The Appellate Body upheld and expanded the rulings in an earlier WTO Panel Report.  Among the substantive conclusions reached by the WTO were: (1) the relevant "domestic industry" for the purpose of considering trade measures limiting imports of lamb meat is composed of packers and does not include growers and feeders of live lambs; (2) that where usable data were received from only 55 growers that accounted for approximately 6 percent of the U.S. lamb crop, the data "was not sufficiently representative of [the] industry;” (3) the USITC Report "did not explain adequately the determination that there existed a threat of serious injury to the domestic industry;" and (4) "the USITC'S determination that there existed a causal link between increased imports and a threat of serious injury did not ensure that injury caused to the domestic industry, by factors other than increased imports, was not attributed to those imports."




NMA will host a FMD teleconference, which will include Dr. Alfonso Torres, Deputy Administrator at APHIS, on Wednesday, May 16, at 8 a.m. PDT.  If you are interested in signing up to be on this teleconference, fax your name, company, phone and fax number to (510) 763-6186. Members are invited to FAX or email questions for the May 16 teleconference, to be provided ahead of time to Dr. Torres. (NOTE – if you tried to fax this in last week, the number was listed incorrectly. We apologize for this inconvenience.)




NMA will be cosponsoring a seminar on “Developing a Corporate Compliance Policy” in cooperation with The American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP), the North American Meat Processors Association (NAMP), Southeastern Meat Association (SEMA) and Southwestern Meat Association (SMA). Speakers, including Dennis Johnson from NMA legal counsel Olsson, Frank & Weeda, Chuck Jolley from Meat & Poultry magazine and NMA Director of Regulatory Issues Ken Mastracchio, will lead participants in a workshop dedicated to meeting the needs of ensuring company compliance with the law. This course will deal with those policies which best protect your rights when dealing with the government.



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

May 14, 2001




On May 8-10, 2001, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) held a series of public meetings on its proposed regulation to establish performance standards for ready-to-eat (RTE) products, including requirements for control of Listeria monocytogenes (LM). The three days of meetings focused on scientific research and new technologies to control LM; RTE performance standards and the proposed mandatory Listeria spp. testing; and Trichinae control, the proposed revision of the canning regulations, and the economic impact of the proposed regulations. Sound science for food safety was the hot topic in the technical conference and public meeting on RTE meat and poultry products. Tom Billy, FSIS Administrator, was provided with a variety of innovative ideas, studies, and scientific data with the intention to better protect RTE products.


The first presenter, Dr. John Sofos, discussed the effects certain ingredients have on the survivability of E. coli O157:H7 and LM. The next presenter, Dr. Wiedmann, discussed a pilot program that used molecular subtyping to track LM in seafood processing facilities. Following Dr. Wiedmann, several presenters from the USDA's Agricultural Research Service discussed their research on LM and pathogen modeling. 


The following day, May 9, Dr. Dan Engeljohn gave an overview of the proposed rule, which was followed by public comments.  The final session, May 10, dealt with the economic impact of the proposed rule. FSIS estimates that approximately 75 establishments manufacturing fermented and dried products would be affected. The costs identified included validation costs and processing costs (such as product shrinkage), which would be approximately $2.72 million the first year and $4.41 million in annually recurring costs. Both ARS and FSIS have initially determined that the benefits of the proposed rule would probably be greater than the costs. Moreover, after the proposed rule is adopted, the agencies estimate that the costs associated should decline while the benefits should continue to rise.


Prior to the meeting, FSIS posted Draft Compliance Guidelines on its web site at During the meeting, FSIS officials highlighted some of the more pertinent sections of these draft guidelines as they affect the lethality performance standard. These include:



The agency promised to post all of its presentations on the FSIS website as soon as possible. As a result of the delay in scheduling this public meeting, FSIS has extended the comment date for the proposal until June 28, 2001. A summary of the meeting provided by Olsson, Frank & Weeda is available, send a self-addressed, stamped (34¢) envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA-West and be sure to include the newsletter date with your request. NMA’s Manager of Technical and Educational Services, Teresa Frey, is working with NMA’s Processed Meats Committee and industry scientists to develop NMA’s final comments and welcomes members views to her at [email protected].


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Congress introduced May 9 legislation, sponsored by Representative Sherrod Brown (D-OH) with bipartisan support, to fund an interagency plan that would curb use of antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture. The Antibiotic Resistance Prevention Act of 2001 would authorize funding for the primary goals of an interagency action plan proposed last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food Chemical News Daily reported. Representatives Greg Ganske (R-IA), Henry Waxman (D-CA.), Gene Green (D-TX), Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Michael Bilirakis (R-FL) are co-sponsoring the bill.




FSIS noted in its May 11 Constituent Update that foodborne illness peaks in summer. To combat this fact, FSIS has put together important information on how consumers can protect themselves during the warm season. Access this important information on the FSIS website at  Also available, information on Barbecue Food Safety. FSIS has gathered simple, yet important guidelines for grilling food safely to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness. Access this information online at FSIS's website is linked from




FSIS has released what amounts to a lengthy mission statement of its duties to preserve public health in a backgrounder titled Protecting the Public From Foodborne Illness: The Food Safety and Inspection Service. Including information on the Agency's responsibilities and activities relative to the inspection of domestic and imported meat, poultry, and egg products, the backgrounder also includes information on the Agency's current initiatives. ”The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), a public health regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, protects consumers by ensuring that meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, wholesome, and accurately labeled,” begins the backgrounder. It then goes on to describe how the Agency uses more than 7,600 inspection personnel to verify food safety activities in nearly 6,500 food production facilities. Not just a mission statement, the backgrounder concludes that “In addition to working to improve the safety of food, FSIS has also been active with consumer education programs for more than 20 years. Today, as new pathogens and food hazards emerge, these programs are a vital link in educating consumers about emerging risks and safe food handling.” The full text of the backgrounder is available at the FSIS website at


E. coli O157:H7 RECALLS


Recent weeks have shown an apparent spike, perhaps due to warmer weather, in voluntary recalls due to E. coli O157:H7.


May 13, 2001       Young & Stout, Inc., approxiamately 150 pounds of fresh ground beef

May 8, 2001         Emmpak Foods, Inc., approximately 254,000 pounds of frozen hamburger patties

May 6, 2001         Pena Cabarga Enterprises, Inc., approximately 150 pounds of fresh ground beef products

May 5, 2001         Emmpak Foods Inc., approximately 471,000 pounds of ground beef

April 22, 2001      IBP-Lakeside Packers, approximately 204,000 pounds of ground beef products

April 20, 2001      Sack & Save, approximately 80 lbs. of ground beef




NMA will host a 1-hour teleconference on Incentive Programs June 5 at 9:00am. Attendees will get answers from experts in the field of workplace issues on their most important asset: employees. Contact NMA for registration information.