NM GMO label bill dies, Missouri’s pending
The New Mexico Legislature has tabled a bill that would require genetically modified organism (GMO) labels on foods and feed. The New Mexico Senate voted down a committee report on the proposal. It had passed the public affairs committee in early February. According to FoodNavigator.com, New Mexico Senate sponsor Peter Wirth, a Democrat, said although the GMO labeling bill died last week, they are confident similar initiatives in other states will pass. A bill introduced in the Missouri legislature (SB 155) would require all meat and fish produced in the state that is genetically modified and sold for human consumption to be labeled. A handful of other states also have GMO labeling proposals pending.
Layoffs continue at plants
National Beef last week notified about 433 employees of layoffs that will be effective by April 13 at its Hummel’s Wharf, PA, and Moultrie, GA, facilities. Affected employees will receive a letter from National Beef providing information regarding their pay, health insurance and unemployment benefits. Approximately 150 employees at Hummel’s Wharf and 283 at Moultrie are affected by the layoffs. “National Beef was notified in October by one of its key customers that it would transition away from using National Beef as a supplier of case-ready beef. Today, there are no plans to close the Hummel’s Wharf or Moultrie facilities; however, they will begin to operate at reduced levels,” the company said in a statement. “National Beef is working to bring additional business to each facility and to preserve the jobs, skills and experience of the National Beef team at each location.”
Meat scandal continues
European Union (EU) officials scheduled a meeting last week in Brussels to address a scandal spreading across the continent over the sale of horsemeat passed off as beef. Food and safety officials continue to search slaughterhouses looking for evidence of criminal activity. Retailers throughout several countries continue to pull product from their shelves.
Ireland’s agricultural minister, Simon Coveney, told reporters he called the meeting, inviting EU’s health commissioner and his counterparts in other EU nations to take “whatever steps may be necessary at EU level to comprehensively address this matter,” according to media reports. Horsemeat has been found in products sold as 100 percent beef in Sweden, the United Kingdom and France. As many as 16 European nations may be involved, officials say. French authorities reportedly are looking into possible criminal activity at Comigel, which also supplied the beef lasagna that another British retailer, Findus, found to have contained as much as 100 percent horsemeat. A slaughterhouse in northern England and a meat process in wales are currently shut down while officials determine their involvement in selling horsemeat as beef.
CFIA closes plant
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has suspended the operating license of St. Ann’s Foods Inc., a beef slaughter plant located in St. Ann’s, Ontario, effective Feb. 7. The company has failed to correct deficiencies in hygienic practices that were previously identified through CFIA inspections, according to a news release by CFIA. “Although St. Ann’s Foods Inc. presented an acceptable action plan to the CFIA that would have corrected these deficiencies, they have been unable to demonstrate consistent or full implementation of the corrective measures within the required timeframe and this has resulted in the license suspension. The license suspension is in line with CFIA’s first priority—the health and safety of Canadian consumers,” the agency stated. There are no food recalls associated with this suspension and no reported illnesses.
Sweden meat tax
Sweden’s board of agriculture is recommending a tax aimed at reducing meat consumption, according to news reports. The Swedish board said voluntary actions by consumers and firms are probably not enough to reach environmental and climate goals, and a meat tax at the European Union (EU) level could be the solution. “Regulation, environment taxes and subsidies can lead in the right direction. But it’s crucial that this is at an international level. Or else we risk moving the production somewhere else where the tax burden is lower, not where the production is sustainable,” Swedish Board of Agriculture spokeswoman Gabriella Cahlin was quoted as saying.
Swedish meat consumption has increased by a third in the past 30 years and is higher than average for the EU, according to a media report. The report offered three solutions: Less meat consumption globally, the possibility of taxing meat, and international agreements to support sustainable meat production.