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Union: Meat plants violate mad cow rules

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frenchie

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Union: Meat plants violate mad cow rules
Banned brains, spinal cords may still enter food supply
By Jon Bonné
MSNBC
Updated: 6:21 p.m. ET Dec. 20, 2004
Parts of cattle supposedly banned under rules enacted after the nation's first case of mad cow disease are making it into the human food chain, according to the union that represents federal inspectors in meat plants.

The National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, which represents meat and poultry inspectors in federally regulated plants nationwide, told the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a letter earlier this month that body parts known as "specified risk materials" were being allowed into the production chain.

The parts include the brains, skulls, spinal cords and lower intestines of cattle older than 30 months. These body parts, thought to be most likely to transmit the malformed proteins that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, were banned from the human food supply by USDA officials last January.

The union based its Dec. 8 complaint on reports from inspectors in several states, though it declined to say which ones.

It said that the inspectors found heads and carcasses of some cows on slaughter and processing lines that were not always correctly marked as being older than 30 months. That age is the cutoff for rules governing the use of higher-risk materials in human food; any animal older than 30 months must have any such parts removed before it can be cut up into meat.

But plant employees responsible for checking the age of cattle were not always marking each older carcass. In the course of their regular work, inspectors on the processing lines checked cattle heads themselves and found some from older animals that had been passed through unmarked.

"We couldn't determine that every part out of there was from a cow under 30 months," Stan Painter, the union's chairman, told MSNBC.com. "There was no way to determine which one was which."

The government and the beef industry frequently point to the SRM ban, as it is known, as the single best measure to ensure that any meat possibly infected by mad cow disease is kept out of the human food supply. The ban was enacted this year after the first U.S. case of the disease was detected in a Washington state dairy cow in December 2003.

Research has shown that most of the risk from infected animals lies in neural tissue, such as the brain, not muscle meat. Mad cow disease has been linked to a related human disease; both are always fatal.

USDA spokesman Steven Cohen said the ban was working, as were age checks on cattle. "We feel very strongly that this is being done," Cohen said. "It's being done correctly, and it's being verified by the people whose job it is to do that."



Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, belongs to a family of diseases called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies or TSE’s.
Encephalopathies are diseases of the brain. Spongiform comes from the fact that the brain takes on the structure of a sponge and transmissible means the disease can be spread.



TSEs are diseases of the central nervous system and slowly cause its failure. All have long incubation periods lasting from months to years. There is no cure and they are always fatal.


TSEs occur somewhat randomly, and the cause is unidentified.
TSEs are familial or inherited, which means they are passed on genetically from parents to offspring.

The source of TSEs are from outside the animal.




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Federal oversight for the age checks is usually performed by offline inspectors — usually a more senior inspector at a plant who handles larger issues such as food safety plans. They are directed to perform spot checks on plant employees who perform the age checks using paperwork as well as indicators such as the growth of the animals' teeth.

But current oversight would cover a small fraction of the total animals that pass through any given plant — just 2 percent to 3 percent, by the union's estimate.

In its letter, sent to the head of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the union also reported that some inspectors were "told not to intervene" when they saw body parts of some older animals, sent for packing with those of younger animals. This is despite export requirements for certain parts that have been set by U.S. trading partners.

Specifically, the union said, kidneys from older animals were sent down the line to be packed for the Mexican market, which prohibits them from cows over 30 months. When the inspectors complained, Painter said, "The agency basically told the inspectors, 'Don't worry about it.'"

Cohen said the age checks, which are usually performed before slaughter, are meant to be handled by supervisors and veterinary medical officers. "It is not the online inspectors whose role it is to determine" an animal's age, Cohen said.

"The inspector on the line's role is to look for disease," he said. "If an online inspector feels as though something is not being done they should talk to their supervisors."

The online inspectors performed the checks on their own amid concerns that older animals were not being marked as such, according to the union and to an attorney familiar with the matter.

The cases referenced in the letter were apparently reported to supervisors and to USDA district offices, Painter said, but the inspectors were told, "Don't worry about it. That's the plant's responsibility."

The union has not yet received a response, he added. Cohen said the agency would have a response soon, and noted that the department's inspector general is auditing how well plants comply with the ban.
 

Mike

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Phyllis Fong's final report due this Fall is NOT going to be pretty for the USDA.
 

frenchie

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Mike said:
Phyllis Fong's final report due this Fall is NOT going to be pretty for the USDA.


Thats Okay ..She will get to the bottom of things.I wonder If R-calf will endorse that.
 

Mike

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frenchie said:
Mike said:
Phyllis Fong's final report due this Fall is NOT going to be pretty for the USDA.


Thats Okay ..She will get to the bottom of things.I wonder If R-calf will endorse that.

Without a doubt, considering the war they are in with the USDA. The report will only do one thing positive - make the USDA more accountable. Other than that, it's gonna fuel the anti-beef crowd making it not-so-pretty for cattlemen. JMHO
 

mrj

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Realizing there probably will be no consideration from those of you who have posted on this thread for another point of view since you have already tried and convicted USDA et. al. of various crimes, in your own minds.

However, please consider that Unions were really ticked off a few years ago when the HACCP system was implemented. The packers fought it extremely hard, yet did accept it in the end. HACCP ended the old "look, smell system of inspection and requires actual testing and implementation of verifiable systems to do as the name says: recognize the Hazards and set up Critical Control Points to implement a science based system of meat inspection. Unions have fought this ever since implementation.

Do you fail to even wonder if there could be a connection?

Do you never wonder if it is "consumer organization activist" influence on Fong that is her motivation? What has been her relationship with leaders of those organizations? Why would she not tell her new boss, who had no "track record" to make her fear he would not allow her to proceed if she had valid reasons for doing so? Why do you trust her, when she has been part of the hated USDA system for quite some time, and if you are to be consistent, shouldn't she also be considered part of the "status-quo system"?

Sorry, but I believe it is foolish to trust union activists more than a new Secretary of USDA, or even the former one, for that matter.

MRJ
 

frenchie

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Mrj ...I respectfully disagree with you.There are too many things wrong to just be disgrunteled employees.

I believe there is a lot of cleaning up to do on both sides of the border.

In particular the feed bans amd s.m.r material
 

mrj

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reader (the Second) said:
MRJ said:
Realizing there probably will be no consideration from those of you who have posted on this thread for another point of view since you have already tried and convicted USDA et. al. of various crimes, in your own minds.

However, please consider that Unions were really ticked off a few years ago when the HACCP system was implemented. The packers fought it extremely hard, yet did accept it in the end. HACCP ended the old "look, smell system of inspection and requires actual testing and implementation of verifiable systems to do as the name says: recognize the Hazards and set up Critical Control Points to implement a science based system of meat inspection. Unions have fought this ever since implementation.

Do you fail to even wonder if there could be a connection?

Do you never wonder if it is "consumer organization activist" influence on Fong that is her motivation? What has been her relationship with leaders of those organizations? Why would she not tell her new boss, who had no "track record" to make her fear he would not allow her to proceed if she had valid reasons for doing so? Why do you trust her, when she has been part of the hated USDA system for quite some time, and if you are to be consistent, shouldn't she also be considered part of the "status-quo system"?

Sorry, but I believe it is foolish to trust union activists more than a new Secretary of USDA, or even the former one, for that matter.

MRJ

MRJ - get a clue. Consumer's Union is not made up of union activists. Congresswoman Rosa deLauro is not a union activist. As far as I know, those lobbying for food safety have NO connection with unions. When Prusiner went to Venneman and tried to get an audience to ask her to test all cattle, he certainly did not go as a union activist. This is almost comical it's so off the mark. How much interaction do you have with the USDA? How much do you watch their press conferences or read their website and their studies?

Any thinking human being can figure out that they are conflicted and that they are made up of the rank and file who have good intentions and include outstanding civil servants and professionals and the politically appointed folk who may also be good and intelligent people but who by the nature of political appointments serve the administration's policies. Which in turn are influenced more than a slight bit by big business. You'd have to be living in an isolation tank to not recognize this. Thank God for the GAOs, IGs, and the consumer groups, as well as for congress people who do their homework and care about animal and human health.

You had only to watch Alisa Harrison and Ann Venneman react publically to the first case of BSE and to have listened to and compared the various statements and stances for the past 18 months to realize that something is amiss with the USDA with respect to their surveillance policy and practice.

Sorry reader 2, you are a bit clueless yourself.

Not only did I separate my distrust of the Inspectors Union and suspicion of consumer activists organizations into different paragraphs, I put another sentence/paragraph between them! Two different deals, IMO. Either or both could be of influence on the lady......or not.......I'm saying it is strange that some seem to blindly trust the lady, only because (IM Observation) because she pulled a sneak attack on Johanns.

MRJ
 

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