text of Creekstone's response to USDA
DATE: April 13, 2004
Undersecretary J.B. Penn
of Staff Dale Moore
Secretary Ann Veneman
John Stewart, C.E.O.
SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO USDA
On behalf of Creekstone Farms I want to thank you for the opportunity to have met with you in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, April 8. We had hoped for a different outcome to the meeting, however, and are very disappointed with USDA's decision not to allow Creekstone Farms to voluntarily test all of the cattle we process for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). As we have discussed in the various meetings held with the USDA over the past several weeks, BSE testing of our cattle is something our export customers and consumers are asking for, and we feel we should be able to provide it to them.
Creekstone Farms will challenge the USDA's decision, and are currently analyzing our legal options. We are challenging USDA's authority to control the sales of BSE diagnostic tests in the United States and your decision to prohibit companies like Creekstone Farms from conducting 100 pecent testing of young animals that would meet our customers' needs and requirements.
We are hopeful there will be a resolution to the current U.S. beef trade embargo with Japan. It is imperative to companies such as ours that trade be resumed. However, we understand the position of our Japanese customers, consumers and their government, as well as the challenges their staunch positions represent. They are requesting 100 percent testing of all beef bound for their market as the precursor to the resumption of trade. The USDA's current plan to test only older U.S. cattle for BSE will not meet this requirement. On Monday, Japanese Vice Agriculture Minister Mamoru Ishihara announced that the "U.S. government's decision not to accept [Creekstone's] offer is, frankly speaking, regrettable."
Creesktone Farms has received a tremendous amount of support during the past few weeks for our proposal to test all of our cattle for BSE. We will continue to work with our senators and congressmen, as well as industry experts, to help find a solution to this recent USDA decision. Please understand our situation as well as our consternation over why the USDA will not embrace our plan. Creekstone Farms plans to test more cattle than the USDA, at a lower cost. If our plan were to be implemented, we would test over 300,000 head of cattle over the course of a year, versus the USDA proposed cattle population of approximately 220,000 head. As well, the USDA is planning on spending a minimum of $72 million of taxpayer money to conduct these tests. The Creekstone Farms' plan will cost less than $6 million using the identical test kit, and our customers are willing to pay for the cost of the testing.
We ask that the USDA reverse its decision of last week and allow Creekstone Farms to test our beef for BSE. In addition, Creekstone Farms is asking for USDA approval of the following secondary options:
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, LLC
IMPORTANT QUESTIONS FOR USDA TO ANSWER
1. What legal grounds (policies/regulations) would prohibit a private industry from performing a Rapid Test method for BSE? If testing young cattle is not a food safety issue, does it fall under APHIS or FDA?
2. Why does the Federal Register prohibit saving of small intestine unless the animal is BSE tested?
3. You have stated that BSE does not occur in cattle under 30 months of age. Why have you prohibited all specified risk materials (SRMS) from all age groups of cattle processed? What is the science behind this decision?
4. How does USDA certify and approve domestic and international sales/production of natural or organic beef products? This would be an implied Consumer Safety Aspect that is not scientifically warranted. You have stated that BSE testing is an "Implied Food Safety Aspect that is not scientifically justified". How does this differ from natural or organic products? If testing is approved, why can't a label state "BSE tested"?
5. How can the USDA justify spending $72,000,000 in taxpayer funds to test 221,000 head of cattle in 12 months ($325/head), when a private company will use the same test method as APHIS to test 300,000 head for $5,400,000 paid for by consumers in 12 months ($18/head)? Also, this private company can fully implement testing in one week, why will it take APHIS five months to fully implement their program? Complete preparation and training took Creekstone Farms one month.
6. Why is the USDA not immediately allowing Canadian cattle under 30 months of age to be sold into the US? If there is any concern, could Creekstone test Canadian cattle?
7. Given the USDA position that BSE testing is not scientifically justified what exactly are the statistical odds and how do you rationalize not giving the people a choice? There have been young cattle (under 30 months) in Japan and England testing positive for BSE.
8. What will be the government's position if a major domestic customer requires packers to do something BSE-related that is not scientifically justified? Will the packer be told he cannot do it?
9. What is the statistical rate of error determining cattle age using dentition?
USDA selects agency's first supplier for irradiated beef in school lunches
Daniel Yovich on 4/13/04 for Meatingplace.com
The Department of Agriculture approved the use of irradiated ground beef in the national school lunch program in May 2003. School districts across the country now have the option of ordering hamburgers and ground beef with low doses of bacteria-destroying radiation to be served in school cafeterias. The process is useful for killing potentially harmful microbes such as salmonella and E. Coli O157:H7.
The ground beef will be irradiated at CFC Logistics of Milford Township, Penn. CFC Logistics is a division of the parent corporation that owns Hatfield Quality Meats.
A General Accounting Office report published in April 2002 estimates reported foodborne illness outbreaks in schools are increasing by 10 percent per year on average, but activist groups have opposed the inclusion of irradiated ground beef on school lunch menus, citing overseas studies that allege side effects from the treatment.
Those studies have been refuted by USDA and United Nations scientific panels.
The American Medical Association says irradiation can help reduce the number of deaths and illnesses caused by food poisoning as long as it is used with other sanitary methods, such as proper storage, to keep meat free of bacteria. Despite activist opposition, USDA remains a proponent of the technology
"Protecting the public from foodborne illnesses is a priority for USDA," Undersecretary for Food Safety Elsa Murano said earlier this year. "Irradiation technology is another tool to enhance food safety. It is important to remember, however, that this technology is not a substitute for proper hygiene, good sanitation and safe handling and preparation practices in the processing plant and school cafeterias."
Meat and poultry establishments that use irradiation must meet sanitation and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations. Additionally, FSIS conducts microbial testing to be sure plants are producing wholesome products.
Detecting metal through packaging
- 14/04/2004 - A high frequency metal detector designed to offer food manufacturers and packers heightened sensitivity for non-ferrous and stainless steel metals has been launched. Pure, high resistance non-ferrous and stainless steel metals have consistently posed the major challenge to standard metal detectors as they are difficult to detect through aluminium packaging.
equipment manufacturer Lock Inspection Systems claims that its MET 30+ hf detector,
which employs a single high frequency, can effectively and safely inspect packaged
dry foods such as biscuits or crisps and does not need to be reconfigured after
inspecting each product. This, the company claims, reduces downtime and increases
efficiency and operating speeds.
The system is currently available as a horizontal unit, employed at the end of the line for final screening of dry, polywrapped, finished products. Lock is developing a waferthin model for space-restricted lines as well as a vertical fall option for free-flowing goods such as coffee granules, sugar and cocoa later this year.
The MET 30+ hf detector incorporates Lock¡¯s proprietary ADC software, which displays signals from the metal detector in graphical format. Data can be viewed on-screen so any changes in signal can be identified immediately and the detector adjusted to match the product being inspected.
Attention to food safety on the production line has never been greater. Flakes or slivers from machinery as well as swarf or wire from sieves, cutters or drilling during maintenance work can infiltrate the line at any stage during the production process, and new food safety legislation obliges food manufacturers to implement systems to safeguard the supply of food.
Andrew Hallitt, mechatronics division manager for equipment supplier Sartorius, believes that there is also a great deal of downward pressure from supermarkets, retailers and of course consumers on food producers to implement stringent safety measures. All these pressures are forcing the food production industry to go that extra mile.
"People, care," he said, referring to food safety. "If you look at the British media, the papers are full of scare stories concerning food contamination. Anything that gets in the press is a big deal."
Sartorius has also launched a machine to detect ferrous and stainless steel contamination in aluminium foil wrapped products. Like Lock¡¯s system, the Observer metal detector is designed to detect contamination in composite packaging such as food sachets, ready-to-eat meals and aluminium lids on yoghurt pots.
The Observer works on magnetism. Because aluminium does not have any magnetic properties, it is practically transparent.
"This is brand new technology," said Hallitt. " The magnet gets hold of any contaminants, and can detect stainless steel within foil-packaged food, which to date has only been possible with an x-ray."
firm claims that conventional detectors, which operate on the basis of electromagnetic
alternating fields, are limited when they encounter packaging, or parts of packaging,
made of aluminium. On the other hand, tests using x-rays are expensive and require
elaborate safety measures to ensure protection against radiation.
Bioterrorism risk measured
DOWAGIAC -- Michigan State University's Jim Trosko prizes his ability to put things in perspective. "I have to disagree" that bio-terrorism aimed at the food supply poses a major threat.
"The most effective way to use microbial toxins is at a point source," such as a "terrorist working at Ben and Jerry's, where you could throw in a vat of 20 million gallons of Chunky Hubby. That's the way to do it. Or, at Kellogg's, with cereal. In toxicology, you have to think about, spraying a field, the amount given to any individual is small.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't be considering these things," he told Robert Wagel, chairman of the Cass County Board of Commissioners. "In particular, how would you respond to something if it did happen?"
The German military paid Trosko's way to that country, giving him a glimpse inside another mindset, such as the panic a dirty bomb could inflict on 12 million inhabitants of Berlin.
"It's not because dirty bombs are going to have any major health effects," he said. "What it's going to have is a psychological effect. For example, if a dirty bomb was let off right in downtown Dowagiac tonight, the extent of the radioisotopes' spread probably would not reach this center. But I could predict with 100-percent certainty, every one of you would run home, worried, and start getting a lawyer, even though you're not sick, to sue somebody because you are panicked by this dirty bomb. You haven't been injured by the bomb physically -- no burns, broken bones. Even that cloud containing the radioisotopes will be so small that you couldn't measure it.
"But the mind would have every one of you running to the local hospital, overburdening its ability to deal with you. They don't have any medical experts -- there are only a handful in the world -- who can distinguish radiation sickness after a day and a half from the flu. The symptoms cannot be distinguished by a hospital general practitioner."
"These are the problems that the Germans are recognizing," Trosko said. "If a dirty bomb went off in Berlin, 12 million people would be rushing to the hospital, and virtually none of them will have radiation sickness. But they will all be in a panic, and that's going to create chaos."
"Do you think there's some terrorist in Afghanistan, even knowing how to spell Dowagiac -- let alone where it is -- should be a suicide bomber to come here? Yet, you do worry about it," Trosko said, "and you're paying taxes to deal with it. We're fighting a war today because of that. Try to put things in perspective. There's always a simple answer to a complex problem -- and they're always wrong."
To put bio-terrorism into perspective, "We have to begin to think of relative risk," Trosko said, starting with recognizing that the numbers of people directly affected physically would be relatively small compared to those psychologically affected. "In effect," Trosko said, "we're all psychologically affected today because of 9/11. America will never be the same psychologically."
In that regard, terrorists "already succeeded. They've drained health care and education resources to build this protection type of thing to the point where we could use this to help our society in many other ways. We have limited resources and too many problems to solve, and now we're shifting priorities to areas that we have to realize we're going to pay a price in other areas."
That's the price we're paying today: We're all psychologically thinking this is the primary problem of society. Think about how many of you will ever be affected by bio-terrorism in Dowagiac."
Michigan and Pennsylvania are the only states which include a food security section in homeland security plans.
"There's a lot more to do," state Agriculture Director Dan Wyant said. "We got e-mails today from our federal partners saying, 'Beware. We're getting information about al-Qaeda. Food and water are potential targets.' It's open-ended. They don't tell you when or where. It's just going to happen. Instead, we'll be measured on our ability to respond. The public will hold us accountable. Our ability to maintain consumer confidence will be based on our ability to control that situation."
MSU hosted a two-hour town hall meeting Tuesday night attended by 18 people at Southwestern Michigan College's Mathews Conference Center to discuss food safety issues and consumer food safety tools.
The first-of-its-kind open forum was sponsored by Michigan State University Extension in Cass County, along with the Extension Food Safety Area of Expertise Team.
The free public meeting featured consumer tips and information from food safety and toxicology experts at the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center (NFSTC) at MSU and the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Co-organizer Toby Ten Eyck, a sociology professor with the NFSTC, was one of seven experts who participated.
"This event is a unique opportunity to discuss food safety concerns and also get information from those who research and study these issues," Ten Eyck said. "We're really pleased that this event (brought) together consumers and academic and government representatives to talk openly about food safety in a public forum."
Ten Eyck said recent media coverage of topics such as bovine tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, mad cow disease, pesticides, biotechnology and other issues highlights the need for such a forum.
"We didn't have chronic wasting disease and bovine TB when I started," Wyant pointed out. "At a time when we have limited resources in the state, an awful lot more of our resources are going towards addressing these issues" that will not be diminishing with products shipped around the world. "It's a big challenge for us."
Other faculty and staff panelists from the NFSTC and/or MSU included Craig Harris, Lillian Occena, Brad Upham, Trent Wakenight and Wyant, a Cassopolis graduate who grew up in Pokagon Township.
The NFSTC (www.foodsafe.msu.edu) is committed to reducing food-related disease on a global level through research, education and service. For more information, contact Kirsten Khire, communications director, at 517/432-3100, ext. 111, or, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.