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 4, 2001




Detroit Free Press Business Writer Jennifer Dixon released a news story, which was widely reprinted, that alleged officials at Sara Lee’s Bil Mar plant in Zeeland, MI knew with near certainty that their products were contaminated with Listeria. The source of these allegations was an investigation by the Inspector General’s office, which according to U.S. Attorney Phillip Green, who prosecuted the case against Sara Lee was not substantiated by follow-up investigations. “It was determined that the evidence did not substantiate that Sara Lee knowingly and-or willfully distributed adulterated meat,” said Green.


The willingness of plant employees, however, to claim that Sara Lee officials knew that they were shipping contaminated product is nothing short of disturbing. Sara Lee ultimately plead guilty to one federal misdemeanor charge and agreed to a $200,000 fine and a $3 million grant to Michigan State University for food safety research.


The damning report was obtained by the Detroit Free Press through an FOIA request. In it one employee is cited as saying that he or she knew with “virtual certainty” that meats produced and sold by the Bil Mar plant were contaminated and that management had “a similar level of awareness.” A food safety inspector is quoted as having told investigators that someone at the plant had said it was “okay for the plant to sell product they thought had Listeria in it as long as they didn’t know for sure.”


Another Bil Mar employee claimed to have become aware of a Listeria problem in late spring or early summer 1998. In a signed statement, the employee told investigators that “responsible members of management at Bil Mar had knowledge of a microbial problem in the plant but were not trying to cover up this fact. It is my personal belief that due to what has happened, members of Bil Mar management were criminally negligent in that they allowed product to leave the plant that could have had a bacteriological problem.”


Sara Lee officials denied the allegations, standing by a June statement to the effect that the company did not intentionally ship contaminated meat. Their position is supported by the government’s prosecuting attorney, Philip Green.




NMA Member Farmland National Beef Packing Company and DMV USA have entered into a joint venture agreement to manufacture and market activated lactoferrin, a new food safety technology that can provide meat companies with an added level of protection from pathogenic bacteria. Lactoferrin actually prevents such bacteria as E. coli O157:H7, Samonella and Campylobacter from growing and adhering. The Farmland-DMV joint venture holds the worldwide exclusive rights to activated lactoferrin for use in food safety as it was patented by Dr. A.S. Narain Naidu, a speaker at one of NMA’s Annual Convention. Initially the technology is planned for use on fresh beef.


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NMA Executive Director Rosemary Mucklow wrote August 30 to the Wall Street Journal concerning an editorial by Holman Jenkins that the paper had run that day under the title, “Moo Over, Mad Cow Cometh.” In part the article claimed that Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) had already arrived in America, although a rigorous testing program has failed to unearth a single case. It concluded that consumers really wouldn’t mind because they had become desensitized to the issue. Mucklow wrote that it is a good thing that BSE has not been detected in the U.S. and the fact that it hasn’t represents a lot of hard work to keep it out. “Holman Jenkins scare-mongering to the contrary if the kind of junk science which is more usually criticized than published by the Wall Street Journal,” wrote Mucklow. “Dedicated career officials have made the U.S. animal import program work remarkably well,” she added. “Their success stands in sharp contrast to what has occurred in Europe.”


“Mr. Jenkins believes that the testing of animals for BSE in the United States has been too limited. As part of USDA’s mandatory, continuous meat inspection program, every animal entering a U.S. slaughterhouse is viewed by a USDA veterinarian prior to slaughter. This ‘ante-mortem’ inspection detects animals with signs of illness or disease for extra inspection and/or condemnation,” Mucklow pointed out. “The 12,000 tests for BSE which USDA has conducted thus far have been focused on animals which have shown signs of central nervous system problems before or during ante-mortem inspection. With all of these targeted tests on the animals most likely to test positive for BSE, not a single animal has tested positive for the disease thus far.”


In other BSE news, the most likely avenue by which infectious materials have spread through Europe has been identified as ‘slurry,’ reports Britain’s Independent. This meat and spinal cord mixture was used to fill hamburgers and sausages until being banned in 1995.




Although a backlash has developed against the kind of enormous hog farms that Smithfield pioneered, the company says it isn’t bothered in the slightest. Such controversy discourages competitors. Thanks to environmental activists, animal rights groups and government regulation, “nobody can duplicate what we’ve done,” Smithfield CEO Joseph Luter III told the Wall Street Journal. The company, despite losing the bidding war for IBP to Tyson, continues to grow into the red meat industry through acquisitions. Furthermore, the Journal reports that Smithfield is experimenting with building its factory farms in Mexico, Brazil and even Poland.


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The American Meat Science Association (AMSA), whose president, Jeff Savell of Texas A&M University, NMA often consults on scientific inquiries, honored individuals for their contribution to the meat science industry last month. The bevy of prestigious awards were presented at the 54th Annual Reciprocal Meat Conference.


Award winners include:

R.C. Pollock Award

¨      Gary Smith, Colorado State University

Signal Service Award

¨      Alden M. Booren, Michigan State University

¨      James H. Hodges, American Meat Institute Foundation

¨      Jimmy T. Keeton, Texas A&M University

International Award

¨      R.B. Sleeth, Armour Food Co. (retired)

Meat Processing Award

¨      Larry L. Borchert, Oscar Mayer Foods (retired)

Distinguished Research Award

¨      J. Daryl Tatum, Colorado State University

Distinguished Extension-Industry Award

¨      Davey B. Griffin, Texas A&M University

Distinguished Teaching Award

¨      Markus F. Miller, Texas Tech University

Intercollegiate Meat Judging Meritorious Service Award

¨      Dell M. Allen, Excel Corporation

Achievement Award

¨      Catherine Nettles Cutter, Pennsylvania State University

¨      Kerri B. Harris, International

       HACCP Alliance

¨      Robert E. Campbell, Dial Corporation




A Wall Street Journal report signals that 2001 is shaping up to have the slowest growth in sales at restaurants and bars since the 1991 recession. Upscale restaurants are taking the hardest hit, but fast-food outlets are also feeling it. For the 12 month period ending July 31, sales were up only 2.4%


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“It appears that multi-drug resistant Salmonella can arise as a result of an insult from other pathogenic bacteria,” Agricultural Research Service (ARS) said in an article published in the Journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology and picked up by the National Chicken Council in its newsletter. The scientists were studying microcins, which are toxins secreted by bacteria, and their potential role as antibiotics. To test whether the target bacteria could become resistant to the microcins, the scientists challenged a Salmonella strain with the E. coli microcin and found that the Salmonella indeed became resistant to it. But they found that the Salmonella also became resistant to ampicillin, chloramphenicol, tetracycline, rifampin, and even ciprofloxacin – a powerful, broad-spectrum fluoroquinolone. The researchers believe that microcin turns on the so-called multiple antibiotic resistance system, which some bacteria use to get rid of almost anything harmful to them. The scientists found that disabling the system prevents Salmonella from becoming resistant.



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 4, 2001




NMA submitted official comments today regarding FSIS’s proposed changes to its residue policy. First noting a priority to be sensitive and supportive of USDA’s food safety efforts, NMA stated that it “strongly supports the availability of [the names of “repeat violators”] so that packers can take the necessary steps to ensure that only livestock and birds fit for the human food supply enter the food chain system in accordance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act.” NMA also suggested that USDA “develop an overall plan to continue its efforts to monitor residue reduction.” However, NMA is strongly opposed to what is being called the harmonization of testing methods, because FSIS has not provided scientific basis that shows that using an FDA method for establishing tolerance levels for “new” animal drugs effectively protects food safety. Further, the proposed system conflicts with international practices and standards of the Codex Alimentarius, a conflict which could hurt U.S. meat internationally. NMA was joined by EMPA, NAMP, SMA and SEMA in the comments. A copy 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.




Two consumer groups opposed to irradiation as a food safety method, Public Citizen and the Center for Food Safety, complained August 21 to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that U.S. irradiation companies are false in their claims that irradiation can be characterized as “cold pasteurization” or “electronic pasteurization.” Their complaint, reprinted by Reuters, asked the FTC to investigation the possibility of false advertising against eight companies and the meat and fruit companies that are affiliated with them. “The time has come for these companies to be shamed into telling the truth,” said Peter Jenkins, an attorney and policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety in a press statement. The FTC has not indicated if it will respond.




Classic Foods frozen chili manufactured March 27 that is linked to six cases of botulism in Texas is being recalled after two children and four adults became seriously ill after a church supper. Sheriff Blaylock's Best Chili was distributed to wholesale and retail stores in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington, but the illnesses were linked to product bought at Town Talk Foods in Fort Worth. The store is described as the biggest food salvage operator in North Texas. Such companies bid on damaged, out-of-date, and surplus foods and restaurant supplies. Foodborne botulism results from consumption of food in which C. botulinum has been kept at temperatures and under conditions, e.g. room temp and air tight, which allow the deadly bacteria to grow and produce its toxin. Symptoms – including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headache, skin dryness, dryness of the mouth and throat, constipation, paralysis of muscles, double vision, and difficulty in breathing – may occur within 12 to 72 hours. Death results in 10% of diagnosed cases. The six people were hospitalized yesterday. The children and two of the adults were listed in serious condition. The majority of botulism outbreaks are associated with canned vegetables, because the organism is soil-based and grows in anaerobic conditions.

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E. coli O157:H7 Recalls August


Five voluntary recalls in August for E. coli O157:H7, no illnesses reported. The recall to make the most news headlines is also the most recent, although not the largest. IBP’s 500,000 lb. recall of ground beef involved one day of ground beef production from it’s Dakota City, NE facility. The meat is being recalled from 35 states and British Columbia. According to the company, “It should be stressed there is no danger to consumers as long as this, or any other ground beef product, is properly handled and cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F.”



Company or retail store






500,000 lbs. of ground beef


Green Bay Dressed Beef, Inc.


530,000 lbs. of fresh ground beef


Safeway #1635


150 lbs. of fresh ground beef


Dominick’s #1149


180 lbs. of fresh ground beef


Benton Packing Co. Inc.


40 lbs. of fresh ground beef ON RECALLS ran a piece on meat recalls, starting with the sentence, “Don’t assume the hamburger or hot dog you’re eating this Labor Day weekend is free and clear of the possibility of health-related recall.” The article went on to detail the recall process with a bent towards pointing out what products are missed. “We don’t have the resources to test every single batch of meat that is produced in the United States,” said Office of Public Health and Science Associate Deputy Administrator Elijah Walker. As to whether recalls could be faster, the article says that critics say officials should deploy more thorough scientific testing at production sites and redouble efforts to find tests that yield faster results and screen for more types of germs. Sadly, the article neglected to give consumers much in the way of food safety advice, except to mention that they should “take care,” and it totally overlooked the benefits of putting resources into preventive strategies rather than far more limited test and recall methods currently in use.




After the U.S. failed to follow-through on a promise to eliminate lamb import quotas by August 14, Australian officials announced that if the quotes were not gone by the end of August the ongoing dispute would spell trouble in bilateral trade talks in September. “Australian lamb producers have run out of patience,” said the Sheep Meat Council of Australia in a statement. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office announced August 31 that it would comply with the World Trade Organization’s ruling as promised. The USDA simultaneously announced $42.7 million more in industry assistance, a package that would be in addition to the three-year, $100 million assistance package announced in 1999 and currently in its third year.




An Associated Press report said that the government was having no trouble finding affordable beef for the school lunch program this year, despite complaints by school officials that the zero tolerance standards imposed last year are too stringent. Prices soared last year after the standards were imposed and ground beef supplies dwindled, causing two states to cancel their orders. This year, however, USDA has been able to purchase more than twice the amount of beef as last year at a price lower by as much as 30 cents a pound. The turnaround prompted “I told you so” comments from consumer advocates, despite the fact that other options which might have done more to protect food safety than a testing program have gone by the wayside. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has not ruled out changing the purchase requirements but won’t do so without consulting consumer groups, said USDA spokesman Kevin Herglotz.