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 18, 2000




NMA is currently hard at work producing a brand new website. Although the new website will build off the style and content of the current site (, it will offer improvements in accessibility, expandibility and conformity. Everything that is currently available, will still be available, and new information will be added. The new website will be located at the same domain address.


At this time, we are beta testing our new site and we’d like your input. Please stop by the beta version of the site at to see what we are producing. If you have suggestions, send them to the attention of Jeremy Russell at [email protected]. We want this website to be the best resource that you could ask for. Your contribution is therefore greatly appreciated.


Note: some links from the new website lead to pages on the current website that will remain unchanged. If you link through to these pages the buttons there will take you into the current website – you’ve arrived at the current site if the browser address changes to




NMA is currently seeking to fill a Regulatory Assistant position opening at its Oakland, California headquarters. The position is full-time – but an applicant completing college may be able to work out a flexible schedule – and requires an undergraduate degree in Animal or Meat Science or a related Agricultural Science; an AA is also acceptable in combination with meat industry or animal production experience. Computer and communication skills are also required. The Regulatory Assistant will work under the Director of Regulatory Issues, sharing responsibility for managing and assisting members with USDA/FSIS activities. As a working knowledge of FSIS regulatory systems is acquired, the Regulatory Assistant will gradually become responsible for guidance and counsel of members in developing resources and responses to rulemaking. This position fits a self-motivated team player capable of making sound decisions. Candidates should fax or e-mail there resume to Ken Mastracchio, Director of Regulatory Issues, at (510) 763-6186 or [email protected].




After more than a year of back and forth negotiations, cattle producers and meat industry representatives have defined the terms of “Made in the U.S.A.,” within the scope of an AMS Certification Program, as it applies to beef and the label may appear soon. To qualify for participation in this voluntary labeling program, cattle must be raised for at least 100 days in the United States. The label must include the following statement: “This beef is processed from cattle raised and fed for at least 100 days in the United States.” Several national grocery chains, including NMA member HEB, are interested in the program. However, it must still receive USDA approval before it can move forward.


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Seattle law firm Marler Clark, known for litigating just about every important outbreak since the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 incident, has launched a series of website that provide valuable information about different pathogenic microorganisms. The list includes:,,,




Cattle Buyers Weekly reported last week that online livestock marketer has sold 100,000 cattle (about $6 million worth) through its online sales barn after only 1 year. At a time when many e-commerce efforts are fading, folding or already flushed, the Boise, Idaho firm has reached its sales target four months ahead of schedule. Daily cattle listings at the site now average 8,500 head per week. announced recently that it has launched its second-generation logistics package that provides automated load tendering and tracking of the load for ground, air and sea transportation. The system will facilitate the transportation tendering for buyers or sellers (F.O.B. or delivered). “It eliminates the redundancy of reentering the data for transportation companies,” said Zia Zahiri, Chief Technical Officer for


Salmonella IS …


Dr. Charles Beard, vice president of research and technical programs for the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, used a telling personal anecdote to explain in the September/October issue of News-O-Gram the hysteria that surrounds food-borne illness these days. “[The association of Salmonella with chicken] is due to the barrage of publicity fed to the public over the last two decades by public health agencies, governmental regulatory officials, and “consumer” groups,” opined Beard. “Have a lot of people suffered infections with Salmonella that they acquired from chicken? No, of course not,” Beard says before relating the story of meeting a man who, although well-educated, had given up fried chicken for fear of infection. Beard explained that the incidence rate of Salmonella on broilers is now below 10% and that even a broiler that falls into that range is safe if properly refrigerated, handled and cooked; the man said he would be serving fried chicken the very next night. “It ought to be recognized, however,” Beard cautions at the end of his piece, “that regardless of how well people do their jobs, it is highly unlikely that raw, animal-source foods will always be totally free of Salmonella. As widespread as Salmonella is known to be, there will always be some getting into the kitchen, one way or another.”


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The General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report last week alleging weaknesses in how contaminated food products are removed from the market. The report entitled "Actions Needed by USDA and FDA to Ensure that Companies Promptly Carry Out Recalls" cites the need for improved communication with distribution companies and the public and an improved recall tracking system. According to a press release from Senator Tom Harkin, the study found that the agencies do not systematically track companies' recall activities. Industry has long criticized USDA's failure to post current information about the progress and completion of recalls on its website. Although, Senator Harkin uses the new report to justify his call for mandatory recall authority, there certainly is no logic in turning over the control and initiation of recalls to an agency that can’t even publish in a timely manner the information it already has. In addition, the Senator claims that the report supports mandatory recalls because companies delay and obstruct recalls, but his press release actually suggests that no recalls have been blocked and only two were delayed (Hudson and Bil Mar). This suggests that out of 515 USDA recalls since the mid-1980’s, 513 were done quickly to get product off the market – proving the antithesis of Harkin’s claims. NMA will review the GAO report more closely as soon as it is publicly distributed.


This year it would seem that the GAO has performed many critical audits of the food oversight agencies. Not only did it release a report critical of USDA’s handling of School Lunch Program food safety information initiatives and a report critical of USDA’s implementation of HACCP, but in June it released a report titled: ‘FDA Oversight of State Food Firm Inspections: A Call for Greater Accountability.” This report, available at, notes that FDA increasingly relies on states to inspect food firms, including those that are high risk. The report also found a number of deficiencies in the agency’s oversight of these firms, including limited audits, minimal report review, limited input from external sources and limited feedback to the states.




Pork producers begin a nationwide referendum tomorrow on whether to retain the mandatory pork checkoff or to scrap the program that brought the world the “other white meat.” In-person voting will take place at county Farm Service Agency offices Tuesday through Thursday, which is also the deadline for mailed ballots to be received. To qualify, producers or corporations must have sold at least one hog they owned in the 12 months before August 17. The U. S. Agriculture Department estimates about 100,000 producers will be qualified to vote. It will be months before results are tabulated and certified.




The farmer who became something of a French national hero last year for leading an attack on a McDonald's restaurant was convicted of criminal vandalism and sentenced to three months in prison last week. José Bové, a sheep farmer, looked somber as he left the courthouse. He vowed to continue his fight against globalization and what he views as bad food.


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NMA REMEMBERS Dr. Richard D. Epley


Richard D. Epley, a well-known national authority on meat and meat products, passed away on September 9 at the age of 58. Epley was Professor and Extension Animal Scientist for Meats in the Departments of Animal Science and Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his extension education programs, Epley was a highly rated classroom instructor. Among Epley's numerous awards were regional and national professional society awards for his extension programs. In addition, he was honored with special awards from student groups, the Minnesota Association of Meat Processors, Minnesota State FFA and 4-H, and a team award from the Minnesota Extension Service.




USDA announced the following purchases last week for distribution to the National School Lunch Program. USDA continues to invite offers for the program. Further information may be obtained from the Contracting Officer at (202) 720-2650. Last year at this time USDA paid between $1.0030 and $1.0055 per pound for beef-frozen fine ground, this year prices were $1.5625 to $1.6778, a 55.4% to 67.3% increase.




As we go to press we learn that FSIS, having waited until the last possible day to file an appeal in the Texas Litigation, has now requested an expedited hearing from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.



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 18, 2000




Last week, NMA reported on Salmonella compliance testing data that was published recently in Food Chemical News. The data recorded plant failure rates of Salmonella Performance Standards and aggregated various, different meat and poultry products. The accompanying commentary attributed to FSIS Associate Administrator Maggie Glavin was that “temperature and climate may play some role in how much Salmonella contaminates meat, but they do not appear to be definitive factors in whether a plant is going to fail regulatory performance standards.” NMA has previously published information for baseline data on ground beef (see Lean Trimmings 1/10/00) and is showing it again here (see maps).


The problem with the new data is that it does not separate out individual data points, or even tests for individual types of meat and poultry products, but aggregates the results by the total test number of 53 samples and reports in the aggregate by state whether plants passed or failed once, twice or thrice. This potpourri of meat and poultry sampling summaries supposedly supports the conclusion that USDA’s data does not reflect seasonal or geographic variations. This is a “macro” picture, when USDA’s enforcement efforts are exercised one plant at a time on a micro basis using the results of a single series of tests from a single plant for a single meat or poultry product.


As we said last week, with sufficient aggregation it is possible to obscure even the most important distinctions. It is certainly the case with this data. Members who would like a copy should send a stamped/addressed envelope to Jeremy Russell at NMA.




In tomorrow's Federal Register, the FSIS will publish a proposed regulation to share confidential commercial information, acquired in connection with a recall, with state and other government officials. When a company conducts a voluntary recall, FSIS acquires confidential commercial information which can include a list of the customers which have received the product. Under the proposal FSIS would share only if: (1) the state agency is authorized to prevent disclosure of confidential commercial information and agrees, in writing, not to disclose the information (for federal agencies, there must be a written commitment not to disclose the information and to forward any FOIA request to FSIS) and (2) the disclosure would be in the interest of public health.


NOTE: Cattle Buyers Weekly has published its influential list of the top 30 beef packers. To find out more about this important information contact CBW editor Steve Kay at (707) 765-1725.


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According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last week, Senators were on the attack against slotting fees at a hearing on September 14. The fees, which retailers routinely charge suppliers to guarantee shelf space, are “threatening the profitability and the future of the family produce farmer,” commented Senator Bond (R-MO). Federal antitrust regulators have also taken a renewed interest in the way retailers will accept discounts from large manufacturers, while demanding upfront payments from smaller ones, to secure prime shelf space. The Federal Trade Commission will release a report on slotting fees later this year. The Grocery Manufacturers of America were non-committal about the fees, saying only: “We don’t endorse or condemn the various distribution methods of our member companies.”




NMA and the American Meat Institute wrote jointly to USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) to urge further oversight of the small percentage of livestock that are turning up with illegal residues. “Our associations want to work with GIPSA to eliminate animals with violative residues from entering the food marketplace,” wrote the associations. “To accomplish this, government and industry need to work with producers and prescribing veterinarians so that where drugs are administered to food-producing animals on an extra-label basis, the identity of the treated animal or animals is carefully maintained and appropriate extended withdrawal times are followed, as required by FDA regulations and policy.” The key to stopping residues before they enter the food supply chain is proper enforcement of the existing laws. “We believe that the payment provisions of the Packers and Stockyards Act can and should be interpreted to allow payments for cull bovine purchases to be conditioned on the receipt of satisfactory residue test results,” recommended NMA and AMI in their letter.




Since 1998, Congress has approved $22 billion in aid to farmers because of low prices and crop disasters, on top of the government payments they receive under the 1996 Farm Act. The latest disaster aid installment of $7.1 billion was approved only months ago. “It's clear that more money is going to be needed,” Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said at a news conference. 200 National Farmers Union members were in Washington last week to push for additional aid. The group is also pushing for an extension of the dairy price support program and an increase in the support rate. Another objective is reducing concentration in the agricultural sector by imposing a ban on meat packers owning livestock operations.




FSIS announced in the September 15 Federal Register the re-chartering of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF). The establishment of the Committee was recommended by a 1985 report of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Food Protection. The current charter for the NACMCF is available for viewing on the FSIS homepage at (linked from NMA’s website) under mission and activities. For information contact Dr. Carol Maczka, Executive Secretariat, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service, at (202) 690-6540.


CORRECTION: In last week’s newsletter, NMA stated that The Consolidated Beef group is chaired by Paul Guymon. In fact, it is chaired by Paul Hitch of Guymon, OK. We apologize for any inconvenience.