January 21, 1999

To: NMA General Members

From: National Meat Association

RE: E. coli O157:H7 as Adulterant, FSIS Policy Change


On Monday, January 15, 1999, FSIS published in the Federal Register a Notice which effectively expanded the definition of E. coli O157:H7 adulteration to include all meat except intact or whole muscle meat. Although this had enormous economic, logistic and regulatory consequences for the entire meat industry and for related industries, FSIS did not discuss with business or industry associations in any of the decision making process or inform them in any way of the coming change. Furthermore, since they carried through the change as a "clarification" is was to become effective immediately, making processors and slaughterers liable for potentially adulterated product.

Today, during a meeting with a unified industry from farm to fast food, including NMA, FSIS decided to withhold the new policy until after the closing of the 60-day comment period and consideration of comments received. The Agency followed up the meeting with a Constituent Alert which stated that "the Agency will hold a public meeting to discuss and get input from all stakeholders on this policy notice prior to the close of the comment period. Specific details about the public meeting will be made available soon."

Rarely has the industry come together as it did today to voice one solid opinion. There can be no doubt that today's decision resulted from a unified industry intent on not seeing public health threatened by arbitrary policy that would have destroyed the industry's economic viability.

For a copy of the FSIS Constituent Alert call (510) 763-1533.