Edited by Kiran Kernellu
September 15, 2003
THE FSIS REORGANIZATION
In a separate item (see Herd on the Hill page 2), NMA notes the publication by FSIS of a reorganization, which was approved on August 19. FSIS, with literally thousands of employees, is a complex agency charged by law to administer the meat, poultry and egg inspection statutes. In its reorganization, the Administrator is directly responsible for nine offices, including the former five divisions that are the bones of the management structure carrying out inspection activities. These five divisions are:
Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement & Review (OPEER)
Office of Public Health & Science (OPHS)
Office of Field Operations (OFO)
Office of Policy & Program Development (OPPD)
Office of International Affairs (OFIA)
Three of the other four offices, Office of Food Security & Emergency Preparedness (OFSEP), Office of Public Affairs, Education & Outreach (OPAEO) and the Office of the Special Assistant for Civil Rights, were previously staff operations. The fourth is the Office of Management (OM), which provides the agency with management of its staff, budget, etc.
In announcing the approval, FSIS makes the point that it is designed to assure cross-cutting functions that will help it to “ensure that the agency operates as a cohesive and coordinated unit to accomplish its public health mission.”
NMA has long expressed concerns about dual (ambiguous) reporting responsibilities of some agency employees in the field, and we certainly hope that internal communications by the agency to its personnel will resolve the previous ambiguities. Mr. Bill Smith, Assistant Administrator (AA) for OFO, spoke with us at NMA’s Summer Conference, and described a distinction made between the duties of Compliance Officers that report to the AA of OPEER and those that would remain with OFO. We encouraged him to make the distinction, not merely by job responsibility but also with a different title, so that there would be no misunderstanding.
Is this important? NMA believes it is very important that its members who, by law, interact daily with inspection personnel know whether the person they are talking with is within the scope of OFO, which manages the largest segment of personnel carrying out routine daily inspection activities, or whether the person is with OPEER, where officials are often responsible for gathering evidence of intentional violations of the law, including signed statements, and are often perceived as a “mini IG” investigative unit seeking evidence that will support a criminal complaint. This is hugely different from the day-to-day interaction with OFO officials, which deals both with assuring continued high standards of meat safety and with rectifying the unintentional mistakes that everyone, industry and inspectors alike, are wont to make from time to time. We will continue to press for this clarification.
It takes a lot of things right to make a really good beef steak, the late Bill Dixon of Roberts Turkey Brand Meats told Rosemary Mucklow about 40 years ago. The linkage hasn’t changed! All the right things include the breeding, raising, slaughter, chilling and processing of the meat. Also, the person that cooks it, the last step before it is served, is an essential part of its preparation and its presentation. We’re enjoying a period of unbelievable increase in beef consumption which suggests that there are a lot of people doing things right! A new quarterly magazine, PLATE, is designed to share lots of ideas about how to do things right for center of the plate proteins.
PLATE is a foodservice professional culinary journal devoted exclusively to delivering innovative, profitable menu ideas to food professionals. It’s worthy of investigation even by amateurs! Each edition includes a “Recipephile” from chefs all over the United States. It is an innovative format, and the photos and recipes are mouth-watering.
We encourage our members, especially those serving the white tablecloth business, to check it out at [email protected]. It is produced by the Meat Marketing & Technology Group, which also publishes MM&T.
DETECTING BSE IN LIVE ANIMALS
Last Monday Reuters reported that two researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have developed a test for bovine spongiform encephalothapy (BSE) in living animals. One of the researchers, Dr. Jiri G. Safar, told Reuters that current tests for identifying BSE are inadequate for large-scale screening. They are slow, often produce false results, and can only detect the agent that causes the disease after the animal dies, Dr. Safar said. The new test “employs antibodies that are able to specifically distinguish the normal protein, which is ubiquitous, and the abnormal protein, which is infectious,” he added. He reportedly predicted that a tissue or blood test for BSE in live cattle could be available in a year.
In a field trial of the new test, it was 100 percent accurate in detecting prions in the brains of 11,000 slaughtered cows in Spain, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Further, in specially bred lab mice, the test was able to detect infectious prions in muscle tissue as early as two or three weeks after being inoculated with abnormal prions. “The concentration of prions in muscle and blood is 1000-fold lower than in the brain so you need an extremely sensitive test to be able to detect such a low concentration - and that’s what we think we have,” Dr. Safar said in the report.
Dr. Jiri G. Safar’s colleague, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who won a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering that abnormal prion proteins can cause the disease, founded InPro Biotechnology, Inc., San Francisco, CA, the company that holds the license to this technology. Reportedly, it may eventually be used to screen people for the human form of BSE, thought to result from the consumption of contaminated beef. See the April 14, 2003 Lean Trimmings for more on this issue.
In last week’s newsletter, we erroneously reported that the initial BEV permits (for exports to Japan) were to be reissued. Cattle Buyers Weekly reported that import permits for Canadian beef products issued late August had to be reissued because of a change in wording in the agreement between USDA and CFIA. Further, it hasn’t been determined whether beef trimmed from the vertebral column already boned out of the carcass is eligible to be exported as beef trimmings. If it isn’t eligible, packers will likely use an advanced meat recovery system to trim the vertebral column, as AMR meat isn’t eligible for import from Canada anyway. Our apologies for this error, and any inconvenience it might have caused.
Lean Trimmings and Herd on the Hill are offered electronically. If you’d like to receive the newsletter via e-mail, please contact Kiran Kernellu at [email protected] or 510-763-1533. Receive the latest news every Monday afternoon in your Inbox instead of waiting for it in the mail!
NMA reports news items that are of special interest to its readers, and provides information that they may want to be able to access. Below are links to the Federal Register, AMS, APHIS, and FSIS, respectively:
NMA RESOURCE NOW AVAILABLE
NMA’s resource, “The Role of Microbiological Testing in Beef Safety Systems,” which was offered in the May 27, 2003 Lean Trimmings, has been revised and is now available for dissemination. NMA members who would like a copy of the resource should contact Julie Ramsey at 510-763-1533 or [email protected].
LOST IN WISCONSIN!
An attendee at NMA's Summer Conference lost a standard 8” x 10” college spiral-bound notebook, possibly with a red cover, with lots of unintelligible notes and pieces of paper inside. Reward promised. Please contact Kiran Kernellu at 510-763-1533 or [email protected] if found.
BEV REQUIREMENTS FOR EXPORT CERTIFICATES
It has come to NMA’s attention that exporters and importers of Canadian beef are required to have a certificate in order to export/import into the United States. Jim Riva, AMS, who is in charge of oversight for the BEV program, confirmed this. The exporting Canadian beef facility needs to be approved and certified to ship product into the United States. The designated importer also needs to be approved and certified to receive Canadian beef imports. Both certificates are presented at the border for inspection. However, only the first establishment within the U.S. to receive the Canadian beef is considered to be the importer. Further distribution of Canadian beef, within the U.S., from the importer to other facilities may occur without further certification. If you would like to request a permit to be an importer please contact AHPIS at 301-734-3277 or 301-673-8364. Permits are approximately for one-year terms. If you have any other questions please contact NMA at (510) 763-1533.
CANADIAN BOXED BEEF ARRIVES IN U.S.
The Associated Press reported last Thursday that two truckloads of Canadian boxed beef cuts from a Brooks, Alberta, packing company entered the U.S. last Wednesday at Sweetgrass, MT, the northern terminus of Interstate 15. In a September 9 report, the Globe and Mail reported that Lakeside Packers had received export permits last Tuesday. Gary Mickelson, spokesman for the company, which is part of Tyson/IBP, said in the report that initial shipments would be two truckloads of refrigerated cuts of boneless beef holding about 18,000 kilograms each (39,600 pounds each) from cattle less than 30 months of age.
NMA SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION’S 2003-04 SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS
The NMA Scholarship Foundation recently released the names of the nine college students selected as recipients of scholarship grants for the 2003-04 academic school year. We are pleased to announce that the winners selected this year are Kelton K. Mason, Texas A&M University; Carrie Adams, Texas A&M University; Christopher R. Raines, Oklahoma State University; David L. Schroeder, University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Chancie B. Moore, Texas A&M University; Lauren Michelle Grimes, Texas Tech University; Carrie Elizabeth Harris, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture; Sarah Mahler, Oregon State University; and Kitman Wong, University of California, Davis. Congratulations to all!
These $2,000 to $2,500 merit-based awards are presented annually to undergraduate students studying Animal/Meat/Food Science and considering a career in the meat industry. The awards will be presented at NMA’s Annual Meeting, which will be held during the association’s 58th Annual Convention in San Antonio, TX, February 11-14, 2004.
UPCOMING NMA SEMINARS
September 18-20, 2003 - Basic HACCP - San Francisco, CA
October 1-2, 2003 - Beyond Basics (HACCP) - College Station, TX
October 23, 2003 – SSOP and SPS (HACCP) – San Francisco, CA***
November 5, 2003 – Listeria Workshop – Ontario, CA ***
April 3-5, 2004 - Basic HACCP – Los Angeles, CA
April 21-23, 2004 – HACCP in Spanish – Los Angeles, CA
September 18-20, 2004 - Basic HACCP – San Francisco, CA
Contact NMA at (510) 763-1533 for more information and registration materials.
*** Location subject to change
GOOD MANUFACTURING GUIDELINES AND GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING BEST PRACTICES FOR BEEF SLAUGHTER
NMA has available a new resource document, “Good Manufacturing Guidelines for the Removal of Spinal Cord During Slaughter Operations and Sampling and Testing of Advanced Meat Recovery Product for Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Analysis.” It is recommended that this document be used in conjunction with the Guidelines for Developing Best Practices for Beef Slaughter, which NMA has developed, in conjunction with SMA, AMI and NCBA, as well leading representatives of beef slaughtering companies.
The resources are available on the Files page of NMA’s website:
NMA members contact Kiran Kernellu at 510-763-1533 or [email protected] for a copy of these resources.
USDA-CFIA CATTLE SEGREGATION AGREEMENT
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced last Wednesday that the USDA and the CFIA arrived at an agreement to allow Canadian processors to segregate products from animals over the age of 30 months to meet U.S. import requirements. Further, the CFIA is in the process of finalizing the requirements of export certificates to allow segregated beef to cross the border. Exports of veal, beef liver and specific processed beef products are already moving across the U.S.-Canadian border.
NMA MEMBER OPINIONS ON COOL NEEDED!
Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) will be a hotly debated issue in the upcoming agriculture appropriations process for FY 2004. It’s crucial that our members make their opinions about COOL known to their representatives in Congress. Members are encouraged to draft letters to their Senators to express their dissatisfaction with the current COOL law and desire to have this unworkable law repealed. While NMA provides a constant voice in Washington D.C., it is the individual constituent’s voice that makes the most impact. Shawna Thomas, NMA Government Relations Liaison, will help any of our members draft letters and make sure they get to the proper people and offices. Please contact her as soon as possible at [email protected] or (202) 518-6383.
FSIS is holding five workshops to explain its new rule, “Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-to-Eat Meat and Poultry Products,” to owners and operators of very small, and small, inspected establishments. Attendees should register in advance by contacting Sheila Johnson at 202-690-6498 or [email protected]. The meetings are from 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the following locations:
Hilton Kansas City Airport
8801 N.W. 112th Street
Kansas City, KS
Holiday Inn Oakland Airport
500 Hegenberger Rd.
Wyndham Garden Hotel
6000 Pan American Freeway NE
Edited by Kiran Kernellu
September 15, 2003
GAO REPORT: COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN LABELING
The General Accounting Office’s (GAO) report entitled Country-of-Origin Labeling, Opportunities for USDA and Industry to Implement Challenging Aspects of the New Law, says it all in the title. In brief, GAO found that no existing programs “address the unique features of the new [COOL] law.” Further, an examination of U.S. trading partners showed that there is significant variability in foreign labeling laws and their respective implementation programs. GAO also found that “USDA used assumptions that are questionable and not well supported in developing its $1.9 billion estimate for the first year cost to industry to develop and maintain record-keeping systems for the voluntary country-of origin labeling program.” However, the report concludes by noting “Any procedures AMS puts in place to implement country-of-origin labeling will inevitably impose an additional burden on the U.S. meat, fish, and shellfish industries, and to a lesser extent on the fruit, vegetable, and peanut industries, if they are to provide assurance that country-of-origin identity is maintained.” Cattle Buyers Weekly reported today that while Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) says USDA should change its record keeping cost estimate and provide the public with balanced and defensible information about the true costs and benefits of COOL, he has used a cost estimate of $1.94 billion, very close to USDA’s figure for record keeping. Visit the report on the Web at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03780.pdf.
FSIS PRE-HARVEST E. COLI O157:H7 SYMPOSIUM
Last week in Washington, DC, FSIS held a Pre-Harvest E. coli O157:H7 Symposium. This one-day summit follows the continuing trend of expanding communication efforts between USDA, the food industry and consumer groups. While FSIS has no regulatory authority over farms, there is an understanding that research into on-farm pathogen interventions are a necessary aspect of the fight against foodborne illnesses.
The three goals of the symposium were as follows: (1) determine whether interventions available to producers can form the basis for the best management practices to reduce the load of E. coli O157:H7 in livestock before slaughter; (2) recognize promising production interventions and ways to make them available to livestock producers; and (3) determine the research gaps that need additional attention. Input from the symposium will be used as FSIS develops best management practices for animal production facilities. The goal is to decrease the prevalence of E. coli before the pathogen reaches the process management stage.
The morning session provided background on current interventions being used at animal production facilities. Currently the Animal and Egg Production Food Safety Branch, a section of FSIS, is in charge of the farm portion of the farm-to-table food safety approach. They focus on pre-harvest concerns such as production, transportation, marketing and pre-slaughter preparation. They also encourage research, but as was stressed by Dr. Nathan Bauer, a scientific liaison to FSIS, under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, FSIS does not have the authority to actually conduct research. Multiple people spoke about the current interventions being researched. Though the research is varied it has shown mixed results and one presenter, Dr. Lynda Kelley, FSIS Senior Manager of Research and Technology Transfer, stated that no single intervention strategy reduces E. coli O157:H7 shedding to 0%. The best chance to lower the amount of shedding is to implement a “multiple hurdle scheme using several complementary intervention strategies.”
Many in the afternoon panel echoed this sentiment as well. While there has been interesting research in feed and water additives, housing practices, antibiotic use, vaccines, transgenic feeds and competitive exclusion to name a few, all were in agreement that there is no silver bullet that will solve the problem of E. coli O157:H7. The afternoon panelists presented various stakeholder perspectives ranging from the livestock producer’s point of view to the consumers. All agreed that communication is the key. Whether it is communication with other countries on their intervention techniques, a research option favored by Ms. Caroline Smith-DeWaal of Center for Science in the Public Interest or looking at state animal health programs within the U.S. like the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program (NYSCHAP), it comes down to the need to share data and research.
During the Q&As, an attendee asked about the development of an E. coli O157:H7 vaccine. The response was that a vaccine is difficult to design because animals do not develop a natural immunity to E. coli; Canada, however, has been working on a vaccine to target the specific attachment point of the pathogen. This was another example of the type of communication that must begin on an international level. Another participant representing Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) likened the threat of foodbourne illness to terrorist acts such as the 9/11 tragedy. Shawna Thomas, NMA's Government Relations Liaison, responded by pointing out that the use of a buzz word like terrorism is a scare-tactic that can hinder the needed communication between industry, consumers and government. She went on to point out that terrorism is not about hurting people, it is about undermining the confidence of an entire population in its government and itself. Terrorism is about taking control away from people. While there have been tragedies related to foodbourne illness, the food industry is not in the business of terrorism.
Though a great deal of discussion focused on interventions that have not worked, the makeup of the participants of the symposium was in itself a step forward. There was a consensus in the room that this important research must be continued in a cooperative way and that FSIS’s intervention approval process must be streamlined. NMA members contact Kiran Kernellu at (510) 763-1533 or [email protected] for a copy of the Olsson, Frank and Weeda memorandum summarizing the symposium.
PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD ON FOOD GUIDE PYRAMID
On September 11 the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) published a notice in the Federal Register soliciting written comments on proposed revisions to the daily food intake patterns that serve as the technical basis for the Food Guide Pyramid. Submit written comments to Food Guide Pyramid Reassessment Team, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 3101 Park Center Drive, Room 1034, Alexandria, VA 22302. Written comments must be received by the Agency on or before October 27, 2003. Please provide technical data, citations, or other information to substantiate your comments, if needed.
The proposed daily food intake patterns and technical support data are available electronically and in hard copy. They can be downloaded from the Internet in .PDF file format at www.cnpp.usda.gov/pyramid-update. Hard copies of the information are available for review at the Reference section of the National Agricultural Library located at 10301 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD, 20705; (301) 504-5755. Additional background information on the Food Guide Pyramid is also available on the Internet at www.cnpp.usda.gov/pyramid-update and at the National Agricultural Library. View the Federal Register notice at:
DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR FREE AND REDUCED PRICE SCHOOL MEALS
On September 11 the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published a final rule in the Federal Register amending the reporting and recordkeeping requirements under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) relating to the verification of applications for free and reduced price meal benefits under the NSLP and the SBP. This rule requires school food authorities to report verification activity and results to their respective State agencies and requires State agencies to analyze and act on these data and to report school food authority level data to the FNS beginning with the school year which starts on July 1, 2004.
This rule is effective October 14, 2003, though the reporting requirements contained in 7 CFR 245.11 will not be in effect until approved by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. FNS will publish a notice upon approval of those requirements to establish the effective date. For more information contact Robert M. Eadie, Chief, Policy and Program Development Branch, Child Nutrition Division, Food and Nutrition Service, USDA, 3101 Park Center Drive, Alexandria, VA 22302 or (703) 305-2590. See the January 6, 2003 Lean Trimmings for more on this issue.
FSIS REORGANIZATION OFFICIALLY APPROVED
The USDA officially approved the new FSIS organizational structure designed to better execute the Agency’s responsibilities as a public health regulatory agency. FSIS says the reorganization was proposed for two reasons: 1) to emphasize accountability in all program areas; and 2) the creation of four new program areas under the direction of Assistant Administrators, with new cross-cutting functions, which will help to ensure that FSIS operates as a cohesive and coordinated unit to accomplish its public health mission. Access the new organizational chart at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OM/orgcharts/fsis.pdf.
FSIS’S NEW STATE REVIEW MANUAL
Last month FSIS completed a new manual to standardize the procedures for conducting comprehensive reviews of state meat and poultry inspection programs, which has been sent to all State Directors. The FSIS Office of Program Evaluation, Enforcement, and Review will verify the self-assessments by reviewing documentation from all the state programs during September, and conducting on-site reviews in a sample of state offices, laboratories, and state establishments during October. A final report will be published in early 2004.