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December 17, 1999


Salmonella Standard Hurts Businesses and Does Not Make Safe Food

OAKLAND, CA – National Meat Association Director Rosemary Mucklow was extremely disappointed by statements made today by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman; she fired off an immediate response. NMA can not stand behind standards that destroy businesses without benefiting food safety, on the contrary Mucklow wrote "we support an inspection system that will effectively reduce illness-causing pathogens on meat and poultry, thereby reducing foodborne illness among Americans."

"Key to accomplishing this worthy goal is to effectively reduce the incidence of the pathogens at or near their source. The first focus for reduction is in the livestock production sector…" she wrote.

"The next point in the food chain is the packing plant. The department’s final rule for Pathogen Reduction and HACCP published in July 1996 recognized this and identified specific interventions to control Salmonella, but FSIS has instead decided to focus on testing, at ground beef plants where the HACCP regulation stated that interventions were not available. Effective regulatory control would be best if exercised sequentially in the production chain."

"Finally, there are some serious problems with the standard that the Department has established for the finished product. This is a large country, and there are distinct regional climatic variations for the survival and growth of this pathogen. Further, there is evidence to suggest that there are strong seasonal variations, and 80% of the baseline data points used by the Department occurred within a 3-month period, and about 70% occurred within only one of five regions of the United States. Further, there is some evidence that the estimates of the numbers of plants manufacturing ground beef is seriously understated."

NMA raised these issues with USDA Food Safety Inspection Service officials, but requests remain unanswered three months later.

National Meat Association is a non-profit trade association representing meat packers and processors, as well as equipment manufacturers and suppliers who provide services to the meat industry. The association, with over 600 members throughout the United States, includes membership in Canada, Australia and Mexico.