NATIONAL MEAT ASSOCIATION h 1970 Broadway, Suite 825, Oakland, CA 94612
Edited by Jeremy Russell
June 4, 2001
The FSIS Alameda District Office held an industry meeting last Thursday in La Mirada, CA. About 200 persons attended, primarily from the industry, but also including key district office officials – Dr. Murli Prasad, Dr. Efren Martin, Dr. Adel Malak and Kirk Elliott – and nearly all the Circuit Supervisors and some inspectors. NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow was in attendance.
District manager Prasad opened the meeting, stressing that the basic ingredients for effective communication sets the base for mutual respect, and that by working together the agency and the industry have achieved much progress in the implementation of SSOPs and HACCP. He then introduced Assistant Deputy Administrator Bill Smith who spoke about the agency’s “next steps” to reduce the risk of food borne illness from the consumption of meat and poultry. Smith spoke about efforts to enhance the agency’s capabilities and to better integrate operations with the public policy goals by developing improvements in the FSIS infrastructure. He made it clear that the agency is moving from being a simple inspection agency to a regulatory public health program. To support this transition the Agency will attempt to integrate its program functions, maximize the effectiveness of HACCP oversight and establish performance expectation. In his new position, Smith will be visiting the 17 District offices to see how they are operating. He confirmed that a task force is evaluating just how they fit into the overall picture and how they can best be supported, but that this does not necessarily mean that their number will be reduced.
Lynvel Johnson, a staff officer with the Technical Center in Omaha, reviewed the agency’s current thinking about Ready-to-Eat (RTE) testing, and the possibility for reduced testing in establishments where the company increases its testing and works with FSIS. This is set forth in FSIS Directive 10242.2.
NMA’s Executive Director, invited to speak to the group, reviewed the fundamental responsibilities of businesses operating under a grant of inspection. “HACCP is a system designed to prevent hazards and to measure your efforts by monitoring critical control points,” said Mucklow. “It is your responsibility to make sure that your plan is working and that it is effective in producing safe products.” She also noted that NMA tries to work closely with the agency officials, but that when there are serious disagreements as in the Texas litigation, it is prepared to pursue even legal remedies.
Finally, Bill Sveum, with Kraft General Foods (Oscar Mayer), reviewed the optimum way to conduct sampling and testing programs for RTE products, stressing the enormous value of a strong environmental testing program. Environmental testing, the best way to have assurance that there is no possibility of contamination, was the subject of a set of joint industry guidelines which are currently available for download from NMAonline.org.
The meeting ended with a good Q&A session before adjournment at just after 9 o’clock.
Visit the NMA, AAMP, NAMP, SEMA and SMA guidelines for environmental testing at www.nmaonline.org/files/guifinal.pdf.
A new polymer with antiseptic properties is being tested by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The polymer could potentially be used to coat food processing equipment to create a permanently sterile layer. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reveal that the coating, called hexyl-PVP, was able to kill up to 99% of Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas and E. coli. Even better the coating kills the bacteria by destroying the outer membrane, a process which would make it difficult if not impossible for the bacteria to adapt and develop resistance, as they do with antibiotics.
MEAT AND THE BIOTECH DEBATE
It may not currently seem important to the meat industry that activists have transformed the debate surrounding biotech from one of ‘what can it do for us?’ to ‘what will it do to us?’ But a British researcher told Reuters on May 21 that genetically modified meat could in fact be on shop shelves in as little as 10 to 15 years. Professor Patrick Bateson, of the Royal Society of Leading Scientists, said it will be feasible to breed chicken resistant to Salmonella or cattle genetically altered to produce lean meat. By the time the technology arrives, however, it may already be too controversial to attempt. According to last Friday’s Wall Street Journal biotech opponents have been instilling irrational fear of biotech products in consumers’ minds. “The result often has been scientifically unsubstantiated regulations designed to burden or obstruct research and development,” wrote the Journal. Microbiologists in Ontario, Canada are already using biotech to address naturally occuring phosphate pollution, a scourge of the livestock industry. The phosphate contents of manure pollute waterways, but new expirements are aimed at genetically manipulating phosphate metabolism in the animal. It’s hard to say where potentially beneficial research such as this will be in the next 10 to 15 years.
MCDONALDS IS SORRY ABOUT THE FRIES
McDonald’s issued an apology to those who ate its U.S. french fries with the mistaken impression that they were vegetarian because the company advertised they were cooked in vegetable oil. The fact that there was beef flavoring in its fries resulted in a lawsuit last month by some Hindus and vegetarians. The plaintifs have asked that the suit be certified as a class action on behalf of any vegetarian who ate McDonald's fries after 1990. McDonald’s has never claimed that its french fries were vegetarian.
In India, the Seattle lawsuit was front-page news, and a McDonald's in a Bombay suburb was vandalized, Reuters reported. Eighty-five percent of India's population are Hindus, many of whom consider cows sacred. The company has said that no beef or pork flavorings are used in its fries in India or in Muslim countries, a claim repeated in the Web site.
Fast food franchises, tired of high worker turnover, have discovered a new way to keep their employees: benefits. That’s correct, flipping burgers will now come with a 401(k) retirement plan, health insurance and maybe even stock options, at least in some markets. Burger King, which already provides a 401(k) for its corporate restaurant workers, may now extend that plan to its franchise restaurant workers as well. Tricon Global Restaurants, Inc., which includes Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, already offers restaurant workers stock options and recently began trying bonuses as a motivator for managers to increase employee retention. Seen as a place for teenage employment, the average age of workers at Burger King is actually 25 and at Wendy’s International, Inc. it is 27 to 28. Although wages are low at $6 to $8 an hour, workers who stick around can eventually earn up to around $12. “Reducing turnover results in lower training costs, better service and better control of the entire labor expense item,” Peter Oakes a restaurant analysts at Merrill Lynch told the Wall Street Journal.
McDonald’s is currently testing plastic wand devices which will allow patrons to pay without fumbling for cash in Boise, ID and Chicago, IL. More than 2,000 people have reportedly signed up for the program which will speed fast food purchases. The device was already introduced in Orange Country, where it was so successful that it will appear in over 50 California outlets. The company found that people spend more with the wands.
A similar system may well revolutionize the way meat and produce are labeled at the grocery store, according to a report by the Associated Press. A new electronically scanned bar code system could eliminate the need for cashiers to manually enter the product code for such items. The system carries more information about the product, such as the manufacturer’s name, the variety and even its expiration date, yet is much smaller than traditional coded labels. This would not only speed check out times for supermarkets, but in the event of a recall, they could know immediately if the product was sold and when. They could even potentially track individual consumers who purchased recalled product.
BSE BAN EXPANDED
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today added the Republic of San Marino and the independent principalities of Andorra and Monaco to the list of regions that present an undue risk of introducing Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) into the United States because their import requirements are less restrictive than those required for import into the United States and/or because of inadequate surveillance. The effect of this action is a restriction on the importation of ruminants and meat, meat products, and certain other products of ruminants that have been in Andorra, Monaco, or San Marino.
HOW Listeria KILLS
Last week scientists announced that they had at last solved the mystery of how the Listeria bacterium invades the body's organs to sicken and sometimes kill people who eat contaminated foods. To cause food-borne infection, Listeria must move through the stomach and then cross the intestine to enter the bloodstream, where it disseminates to the central nervous system and the placenta. A protein on Listeria's surface called internalin interacts with a receptor, E-cadherin, found in the intestine to allow the bacterium's entry into intestinal cells, enabling it to proceed to the bloodstream. In expirements, when animals received internalin-free Listeria, the bacteria failed to cross the intestine, could not invade organ tissues and did not cause illness or death. Hopefully, the finding will lead to new ways to combat the bacterium
In the mid-1990s, the Employer Trustees of the Provision Workers Pension Trust, a small Taft-Hartley Trust fund supported by contributions from meat and poultry processors in Southern California, initiated a companion individual cash plan to run parallel with the traditional defined benefit pension plan. They were able to convince the Union trustees that this was a good idea. Today, after six years of experience and contributions, persons who leave the plan and are eligible for benefits, receive up to $32,000 in addition to the defined monthly benefit. Participants are thrilled to receive this kind of cash-out which they can reinvest in an IRA-type account or take in cash, which they may prefer depending on their age and tax liability. This type of benefit parallels the kind now being developed by those in the fast food business, and it helps to reduce employee turnover since the plan can be designed in such a way to accumulate vesting of the benefit over a period of years.
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
June 4, 2001
Unlike the Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR) system for beef and hogs, the statutory authority for collecting price information about lamb was not prescriptive. Rather, the Secretary of Agriculture was left with discretion. The industry is very small, with about seven firms required to report, however the ranges in product categories are substantial. The reported data by USDA is thus not very useful in guiding the industry about the market conditions.
NMA has sought input from the firms required to report and is now in the final stage of developing a recommendation to ask USDA to report prices adjusted to a central location, such as Omaha. This would level the playing field and provide meaningful data. Interested parties should send an e-mail request to [email protected] to receive a copy of the most recent communication by NMA with the industry firms. We welcome the input of interested parties.
NACMPI TO MEET THIS WEEK
The National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) will meet June 5-6 to discuss the industry petition on proposed changes to the HACCP final rule, intergovernmental working relationships on food safety issues, and an emerging egg and egg products strategy. The meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn Capitol in Washington, DC. For additional meeting information, contact Sonya West at (202) 720-2561. Access the notice and agenda at: www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/notices01.htm.
The meat and poultry industry held a teleconference Friday to discuss meeting topics. NMA’s Director of Regulatory Issues Ken Mastracchio was on the call. They discussed ways to have prerequisite programs such as SSOP programs and GMPs counted as controls under HACCP. They would also like to see clearer definitions for the terms “hazard” and “shipped” than currently exists under the regulation, because hazard analysis should be focused on significant hazards and the rules need to be clear as to exactly when a product enters interstate commerce.
FSIS announced a meeting on a public health approach to processing inspection. The meeting will be held on June 7 at the Holiday Inn Capitol in Washington, DC. An agenda is available online at FSIS’s website, linked from NMAonlin.org.
FSIS will host a public meeting on June 8 to describe the Agency's plans for the modernization of port-of-entry reinspection of meat and poultry food products, including changes being made to the Automated Import Information System (AIIS). The meeting will be held in the Columbia Room, Holiday Inn Capitol, in Washington, DC 20024. Pre-registration is not necessary. For further information contact Karen Stuck at (202) 720-6400.
To ward off potential mandatory labeling, the Food Allergy Issues Alliance has issued guidelines which cover labeling for the eight ingredients that cause 90% of food allergies. Those would be crustaceans, fish, eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts and wheat (or gluten). According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the guidelines come as consumers’ concerns about food allergens have dramatically increased and the FDA has begun developing possible new rules covering their labeling. Companies who adopt the guidelines would stop using such blanket statements as “may contain,” often used more to shield a company from liability rather than inform consumers, and would cite specific allergens. For example, instead of stating that a product contains some undefined “natural flavor,” it would list “natural peanut flavor.” Which actually might be a better way to head off lawsuits anyway. Plain language would also be used in the labels, so that a milk protein like “casein” would lead to milk being on the “label.” About six to seven million Americans suffer from food allergies, it’s safe to say these are among the most likely people to actually read food labels in the country so any company that adopts the guidelines is likely to win the appreciation of this market segment. Furthermore, in the words of National Food Processors Association Senior Director of Food Labeling and Standards Regina Hildwine, “if the guidelines work as intended, we should head off the need for new regulations.”
USDA added Argentina to the list of countries where Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) has been confirmed and burned about 1,800 pounds of meat from Uruguay, also known to have FMD, last week. These actions are a reminder that the threat of the disease still hangs over the industry. Although the crisis in Europe appears to be under control, numbers of new cases in Britain have been to creep up. Already in Britain three million animals believed to have been at risk of catching or transmitting the highly contagious disease have been slaughtered as a result of that outbreak. The cost of a similar crisis here would be enormous.
President Bush plans to sign the “Mad Cow and Related Disease Prevention Act of 2001,” a bill that would help authorities seal U.S. borders against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and FMD. As well as creating an interagency task force to coordinate government efforts to prevent an outbreak of the two animal diseases in the United States, the law would require the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report to various Senate and House Agriculture Committees covering. It would also call for an economic impact statement and a public risk assessment.
USDA officials are also considering the BSE risk materials feed ban to see how it can be strengthened. Chicken litter, plate waste and non-ruminant proteins, such as swine, are among the products that may be added to the ban. The American Red Cross is tightening restrictions on blood donations from people who have been to Europe as a precaution to keep BSE out of the blood supply, which cause alarm because of the fact that bovine blood, not thought to carry the disease, is exempted from the feed ban.