BEEF bits

Mar 26, 2010
by WLJ

Congress tackles food safety issue

Congress will take up a bill to expand food recalls to more actively target consumers with the information. The bill, introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, earlier this month, would require notices posted on shelves at food retailers where recalled foods are sold and require that recall notices are sent directly to grocery store members and store loyalty card users.

Stores and restaurants would be required to receive notification of Class I recalls within 24 hours of the recall. The stores that received products must then post a notice on the shelf unit or freezer case where the contaminated product was sold so that consumers are aware that they might have previously purchased a recalled product.

NCBA supports labeling changes

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) submitted comments recently in support of a proposed rule by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to require nutrition labeling of meat products. If finalized, the rule would amend the federal meat and poultry products inspection regulations to require nutrition labeling of major cuts of single-ingredient raw meat and poultry products. FSIS specifically requested comments on “lean percentage” labeling requirements and point-of-purchase vs. product labels. NCBA supports the mandatory inclusion of both “lean percentage” and “fat percentage” on all ground meat labels. The beef checkoff has funded consumer research that indicates both designations are important to consumers as they decide which ground beef products to purchase.

Less meat won’t cut emissions

Consuming less meat will not reduce our greenhouse gas production, a leading air quality expert said last Monday. Frank Mitloehner, a professor at the University of California-Davis, delivered his remarks during a conference of the American Chemical Society in California. Mitloehner is the author of the published study “Cleaning the Air: Livestock’s Contribution to Climate Change,” which asserts that despite oftenrepeated claims, it is simply not scientifically accurate to blame livestock for climate change. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Advances in Agronomy. Mitloehner traces much of the public confusion over meat and milk’s role in climate change to a 2006 United Nations report titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which he says overstates the role livestock play in greenhouse gas emissions. These statements are not accurate, yet their wide distribution through news media have put us on the wrong path toward solutions, Mitloehner said.

U.S. hamburger promoted in Europe

Representatives of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the Kansas Corn Commission, and a Dutchbased meat importer reached an agreement in Europe recently with Hilton Hotels to introduce a premium U.S. beef burger. The Hilton “Classic U.S. Burger” will soon be featured on menus at more than 120 Hilton Hotels in 25 European countries. USMEF said the burger will be one of the most prominently featured U.S. beef items since an agreement was reached last year between the U.S. and the European Union on a new tariff-free quota for high-quality beef from U.S. cattle raised without growth promotants. One of the USMEF strategies in Europe is to enhance the image and reputation of U.S. beef through prestigious joint promotions with “top tier” hotels.

States seek to join ag antitrust battle

Sixteen states, led by Montana, have told federal regulators they want to help fight increasing consolidation in agriculture. One of the areas where they want to be involved is in helping enforce antitrust laws under the Packers and Stockyard Act. This request comes after the U.S. Department of Justice and USDA held the first of five scheduled public workshops on competition issues in agriculture March 12. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said too much consolidation has resulted in unfair trade practices used against farmers and ranchers. He and his counterparts are calling for a halt to any further consolidation or integration in agriculture without a critical federal review, coordinated with the states. They submitted several recommendations to federal officials on what needs to be done. Besides Montana, attorneys general who signed the recommendations are from Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia.

Canada needs more inspectors

The Canadian media reported last week that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will hire 100 more meat inspectors after USDA found that inspections at large Canadian processing plants were too infrequent to meet U.S. food safety standards. Auditors from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found that these Canadian plants were not inspected at least once in every 12 hours of production. That requirement must be met so that the plants can export product to the U.S.