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

September 11, 2000


USDA filed notice to appeal today the decision of the United States District Court in Supreme Beef v. Glickman. Although top Agriculture Department officials stated their intention to appeal the Supreme Beef decision as soon as it was issued, the United States Department of Justice waited until the very last day of the 60 day appeal period before filing with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The delay in taking the appeal may have something to do with the difficulty of challenging a court decision which recognizes and does not substantially limit FSIS’s existing authority to use microbiological tests and other science-based techniques. Instead the court held that USDA could not use tests of product to infer that a facility is insanitary, where that product has originated from outside the facility. "What the court takes issue with today is not the use of scientific methods in USDA inspections but the agency's science-based testing of a processor's product to evaluate the conditions of its plant," wrote Judge Joe Fish in his determination.

However, the lower court decision does enjoin USDA from using science-based tests in an unscientific way: "Because the USDA's performance standards and Salmonella tests do not necessarily evaluate the conditions of a meat processor's establishment, they cannot serve as the basis for finding a plant's meat adulterated under Section 601(m)(4)."

Because the lower court decision did not significantly undercut USDA’s use of microbiological standards, and may have actually strengthened them, USDA will have a difficult burden to prevail on appeal. National Meat Association led a group of other associations in filing amicus curiae briefs supporting the plaintiff in the District Court, and the NMA Board of Directors has already approved NMA’s amicus curiae participation in the appeal, Glickman v. Supreme Beef.


Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, discussing the advent of genetically modified food on a recent digital west television show, said that "…ultimately you have to come down with a public policy decision based on this (science), overwhelming preponderance of the evidence." And he was absolutely correct. But, as will be illustrated, sound policy requires that science be interpreted correctly.

Senior FSIS officials released data of plants tested for Salmonella, as of July 13, 2000, in the automated sampling compliance database. The data represents all products, although many "very small" plants are not yet in the database because they are still being matched to a product. FSIS Associate Administrator Maggie Glavin was quoted in a Food Chemical News (FCN) report on August 28 drawing the conclusion that "the percentage of failures is fairly consistent across the states. There are not a whole lot of discrepancies from state to state."

Unfortunately, the numbers take into account only failure rates by sample set. They do not factor in the individual Salmonella test results over time for different species. In fact there are different levels of Salmonella allowed for each species (see below). The government data as printed in FCN is not therefore useful in determining seasonal and/or geographical distribution of this pathogen. As one wise outsider commented, with sufficient aggregation it is possible to obscure even the most important distinctions.

# samples Maximum

per set Positive

Steers/Heifers 82 1

Cows/bulls 58 2

Ground Beef 53 5

Hogs 55 6

Broilers 51 12

Gr. Chicken 53 26

Gr. Turkey 53 29

Source: CFR 310.25 & 381.94

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As you probably know there are a few problems with end product testing. The main reason it doesn't work is that most of the time when a pathogen is discovered the meat has already been sold, cooked and consumed. In the wake of two recalls within its subsidiary Lakeside Packers, Gary Mickelson, IBP communications manager, says the problem with testing is that it is looking for a problem. The key to battling the bugs, he says, is to look for a solution. "Food Safety and product quality are essential cornerstones of IBP," Mickelson told on August 24. "Excellence in these areas requires an ongoing commitment from top to bottom within an organization. It also requires a willingness to invest in new technologies and procedures." Instead of relying on testing to locate potential problems, IBP has placed prevention as its focus. Among efforts such as temperature audits, employee training, packaging system audits, and temperature verification on shipping trailers, IBP uses an extensive sanitation process called "Triple Clean."


Researchers have begun to study the evolution of E. coli with some interesting results. On the basis of the rate of synonomous substitution for E. coli and Salmonella enterica, the radiation of clones began about 9 million years ago and the highly virulent pathogen responsible for epidemics of food poisoning of E. coli O157:H7 separated from a common ancestor as long as 4.5 million years ago, researchers from Pennsylvania State University reported in the science journal Nature. Phylogenic analysis reveals that old lineages of E. coli have acquired the same virulence factors in parallel, including a pathogenically island involved in intestinal adhesion, a plasmid-borne haemolysin, and phage-encoded Shiga toxin. All of which means that natural selection has favored increased virulence.


By running an electrical current through a diluted saltwater solution, researchers at the University of Georgia found they then could use the electrolyzed water to kill Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Listeria on food and utensils used to prepare food. The process causes the formation of chlorine, is highly acidic, and also seems to reduce the levels of oxygen in the water. "Electric water" can be used to clean fresh produce, meat, cutting boards, food preparation utensils and more, Yen-Con Hung, a professor of food science and technology at the university, told Reuters.

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While new Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) food safety standards for ground beef have focused on pathogens, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) survey of nearly 900 foodservice establishments reveals that food storage and handling, as well as worker hygiene, are the main problems. Food from unsafe sources, however, was discovered to not be much of a problem. The same would hold true for schools it would seem; within days of the report's release, Washington D.C. health officials began investigating food services at a public elementary school where as many as 30 children became ill last week after cafeteria workers violated procedures and served prepackaged lunches even though one in the batch was moldy. Last Wednesday investigators discovered that the refrigerator temperature was about 60 degrees -- 20 degrees warmer than is required. D.C. officials are now requiring the school system to keep daily logs of the temperatures of food and refrigeration units at every city school. They also have told the schools to preserve four meals from every batch so that scientists can test the food if illness occurs. The microbiological cause for the illnesses has not been named.

A report earlier this year by the Government Accounting Office noted that USDA "has provided little guidance to help schools ensure the safety of the foods they procure for the school meal programs." Although, efforts are underway to do this, the recent outbreak in D.C. highlights the need for such information.

Safe cooking kills pathogens. It is currently the only guarantee. Ground beef, unlike the packaged lunches in the outbreak above, must be cooked and when cooked is rendered safe. Nevertheless, the new AMS standard drove coarse ground beef prices that were $1.0526-$1.1105 per pound at this time in 1999 up to $1.5124-$1.6000 last week, an increase of 36.2% to 52% per pound. (For more information on the FDA survey see Herd on the Hill page 2).


USDA joined the other government agencies involved in the President's Council on Food Safety in sponsoring a National Conference on Animal Production Food Safety on September 6 and 7 in St. Louis, MO. According to reports from the meeting, federal officials said improving farming practices was the most promising way to prevent foodborne illnesses. It is "one of the areas that gets the least amount of attention and one that is the most important to improving food safety," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine. The time could come when foodborne pathogens "will be dramatically reduced" because of changes in the way animals are raised, said Catherine Woteki, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety.


New research has created a plastic wrap that is infused with antioxidants. Adding antioxidants to the plastic wrap packing has been shown to keep meat looking redder longer. Some say that fresh looking meat could pose an increased risk from pathogens, but the inventor of the wrap, Melissa Finkle, a graduate student at the Clemson University, disputes this claim. "[Fresh meat products] are undesirable to consumers before they're actually unsafe to eat," Finkle said in a written statement about her research.

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Allan’s in San Francisco’s Butchertown was an institution in the middle of the 20th Century. It was the largest slaughterer in town. Every morning, the owners of butcher shops in the area were there to pick up meat, and especially fresh pork for the Chinatown trade. The company slaughtered beef, pork and lamb. Big cities bought out the old industrial hubs in the 60s and 70s, and so James Allan & Son moved to a plant vacated by Swift & Co. in Stockton, California where it closed for good during the 1970s.

Jack Allan was the head of the family that had to make the difficult decisions to move and eventually to close. He continued to operate a related blood drying business in Stockton until the mid-90s. We’re sorry to report that Jack died in Bellingham, WA on August 5. He was 76 years old. He was a kind and gracious man more inclined to working diligently to provide for his workers than to be a frontier fighter in a hugely changing industry. We extend to his wife Beverly and her family our deepest condolences.


Cattlemen owning some 200 cattle feedlots in the Southwest have formed Consolidated Beef Producers, a nonprofit marketing cooperative, in an effort to negotiate "fair" prices with beef processors and packers, Weekly Restaurant Connections reports. Consolidated Beef Producers' chairman Paul Guymon said the co-op would give the cattlemen leverage by presenting a larger block of cattle: 1.5 million.


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

September 11, 2000


NMA and eleven other trade associations will have their request for an extension of the comment period, due to end September 12, on the HACCP petition extended by 60 days. The petitioners will now have time to provide specific examples and data to support the recommendations made in the petition. Only with enough time can stakeholders provide the best possible input. Sources say the extension will be published in the Federal Register shortly and that it will extend the comment period 60 days from the date of publication.

In brief, the industry petition requests that FSIS revise its regulations to make the regulatory HACCP system focus on actual risks. Along these lines, the petition suggests eliminating the regulatory definition of "food safety hazard" in favor of a definition of "hazards" which are "reasonably likely to cause illness or injury in the absence of its control." In addition, the petition would call for the incorporation of only significant hazards in the HACCP plan and would amend the regulations to permit FSIS to consider pre-requisite programs, such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), in determining a HACCP plan's adequacy.


FSIS issued a report titled The Future of FSIS Veterinarians: Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century. The report summarizes the results of a panel discussion on how to best use veterinarians to improve public health. Recommendations cover five basic areas: Defining the role of the FSIS veterinarian; education, training, recognition and recruitment; development and refinement of partnerships; information management centered around animal identification; and veterinary contributions to international credibility.


Consumer groups, activists and union representatives threw HACCP's success, until now iron-clad, into question last week (see Today's Media Event in last week's Herd on the Hill). However, other groups and even their own documents question the results. The Government Accountability Project, R-CALF, Public Citizen and the meat inspector's union joined forces last week to issue The Jungle 2000 a report which summarizes the results of a survey of meat inspectors. Although the survey, which was unquestionably slanted to the negative, may reveal frustration among inspectors, perhaps pointing to their difficulties adjusting to the new inspection model, it also reveals that 342 inspectors (out of 415 who responded to the specific question) said that "they are still in favor of HACCP as an addition to continuous inspection." Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) issued a press release distancing itself from the new coalition. Said STOP President Nancy Donley: "As an organization comprised of foodborne illness victims, whose mission is to prevent unnecessary illness and death from contaminated food, we at STOP have to disagree with the report's portrait of PR/HACCP as an increased threat to consumer health and safety."

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The Solicitor General of the Department of Justice, on behalf of the USDA, petitioned the Supreme Court August 18 to hear a case concerning mushroom research. This is important to the meat industry because it will determine the constitutionality of checkoff programs. Opponents of checkoff programs have argued that the checkoff fees violate the fist amendment rights of those from whom the fees are collected. In 1998, a claim of unconstitutionality was said to be unfounded as the court system ruled against a Kansas cattle producer. The case of a Montana ranching family is currently under appeal. "Research and promotion programs are intended to expand, maintain, and develop markets for individual agricultural commodities in the U.S. and abroad," a USDA press statement said. "USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees 14 of these industry self-help programs. They are requested and funded by the industry groups that they serve." The pork industry is currently undergoing a referendum on its checkoff program.


Alarmed by negative news reports based on anecdotal evidence and invective from the mouths of meat inspectors, U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) wrote the Government Accounting Office (GAO) September 6 to request a review of the HACCP Inspection Models Project (HIMP). Choosing to disregard FSIS data that the project is improving food safety, Harkin released a press statement saying, "Any changes to meat and poultry inspection must lead to safer and more wholesome products, not to lower standards." Specifically the Senators asked that the GAO (1) describe the pilot programs and their preliminary results, (2) determine the reliability of the data being generated and (3) assess whether the data collected allows agency management to reach valid conclusions on the relative effectiveness of pilot projects and traditional inspection methods.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week the release of the report of the FDA Retail Food Program Database of Foodborne Illness Risk Factors. This report establishes a baseline to measure how effective industry and regulatory efforts are in changing behavior and practices that directly relate to foodborne illness in the retail food industry. Data collected from nearly 900 institutional food service establishments showed that risk factors in need of greatest attention were: Improper holding times and temperatures, contaminated equipment/cross contamination and poor personal hygiene. Risk factors which were revealed not to require increased attention included: Foods from unsafe sources and inadequate cooking. A public satellite broadcast meeting will be held on October 27. For more information contact Denise Buckmon at (202) 205-8140 or e-mail [email protected].


Sept. 12 - 10:00 am Full Committee on Agriculture - Public Hearing. 1300 Longworth HOB Subject: Review of H.R. 1275 - to amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the interstate movement of live birds for the purpose of having the birds participate in animal fighting.

Sept. 13 - 10:00 am Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Resource 1300 Longworth HOB Conservation, and Credit - Public Hearing. Subject: Review of H.R. 4013 - the Upper Mississippi River Basin Conservation Act of 2000.

Sept. 20 - 10:00 am Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, 1300 Longworth HOB Nutrition, and Forestry - Public Hearing. Subject: Review of the Inspector General's report on USDA's Office of the Under Secretary for Natural

Resources and Environment and the Urban Partnership Program.

Sept. 21 - 9:00 am Full Committee on Agriculture - Public Hearing.1300 Longworth HOB Subject: Review of the implementation of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000.

Sept. 26 - 11:00 am Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture - Public 1300 Longworth HOB Hearing. Subject: Review of H.R. 1144 - Country-of-Origin Meat Labeling Act of 1999.