Taking Exception

By

Rosemary Mucklow, Executive Director

National Meat Association

 

The Post is correct (Beef Safety and Salmonella 1/8/00) that the core questions at issue in the Texas lawsuit between Supreme Beef and the U. S. Department of Agriculture are scientific rather than legal, and are not suited to resolution in a courtroom. That is precisely why National Meat Association and three other industry organizations intervened in the litigation and filed amicus briefs with the court in December.

We continue to encourage the USDA to work out the scientific issues that are in dispute, and wish the Department would begin a dialogue to resolve this problem. Supreme Beef Processors, a member of National Meat Association, when faced with an unjustified suspension of operations by USDA, was left no alternative but to seek judicial intervention to protect its customers and its business. The courtís unprecedented action against USDA should speak clearly as to the weakness of the governmentís arguments. Sadly, having lost on the merits in the courtroom, USDA is now pressing its case in the news media rather than trying to resolve the core scientific issues in the case.

The meat industry strongly supports the recently implemented science-based changes to the federal meat (and poultry) inspection system. Modern technological and microbiological tools afford opportunities to make meat much safer for consumers. These techniques have been highly effective in reducing invisible and unacceptable pathogens, and have made meat hugely safer for consumers.

The new HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) inspection system focuses on prevention, and measuring the effectiveness of preventive activity at what are known as "critical control points" (CCPs) throughout processing. This processing is done under the oversight of USDA inspectors. In our view, it is vitally important to measure compliance at these critical control points where corrective action can be taken. A key part of the industryís dispute with USDA is our belief that, to be meaningful, effective and preventive, Salmonella testing should be implemented at these control points, early in the processing system, rather than later during processing or distribution at points where there are no related controls. It is precisely this early measurement and preventive correction that can be effective in achieving the goal of safer meat for consumers.

When itís everyoneís goal minimize Salmonella, we would all be better off to focus our efforts on addressing the problems with the current USDA policy rather pay for lawyers to try to resolve the science-based differences in a court in Texas.