China has agreed to lift its limits on the import of U.S. beef, as well as make concessions for other U.S. products like wind turbines and telecommunications equipment. U.S. officials say that the agreement could lead to a substantial boost in U.S. exports to the world's second-largest economy, reports the Washington Post.

The U.S. beef industry has largely been shut out of the Chinese market since the mad cow disease scare in 2003. The two countries have sparred over several trade issues, include U.S. and Chinese chicken products and Chinese tires, since.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation estimated that China could become one of the Top 10 export markets for U.S. beef if the restrictions are lifted.

"We would project that market at about $200 million in annual beef business," said Joe Schuele, USMEF spokesman, according to Reuters. "If it was fully open today, we would expect to see that size of a market."

"This is becoming one of the most dynamic trading relationships in the world," said U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk, but can only succeed "if neither side has a thumb on the scale."

Wang Qishan, China’s vice premier, called the talks “highly productive and successful” and noted that the U.S. would “seriously consider the views of China” when bringing cases before the World Trade Organization or taking other actions to impose duties on Chinese imports.

The American Meat Institute released a statement on the progress made in opening China’s market to U.S. beef, which read, ““We are very encouraged that China has committed to technical talks to address beef market access. Open trade between our nations is in our mutual best interest.

“The potential market for U.S. beef exports to China is significant. We applaud Ambassador Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for a successful conclusion to the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) and for their efforts to open China’s beef market to U.S. exports.”

Sources: Washington Post, AMI, Reuters

CDC data suggests food safety is improving

The American Meat Institute said it was encouraged by the finding of two new papers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimate that lower numbers of foodborne illnesses occur annually than previously thought.

In a teleconference, CDC said that annual FoodNet Surveillance monitoring of nine pathogens has shown a 20 percent annual decline in laboratory confirmed illnesses.

"The new data, coupled with FoodNet data trends, confirm what we have known: that our food supply is getting safer every day," said AMI Foundation President James H. Hodges, who oversees the Foundation's food safety research program.

"The new data tell us that our food safety strategies have been working and we need to sustain our research efforts. Even one foodborne illness linked to meat and poultry products is cause for concern and we will not be satisfied until our food supply is even safer," Hodges commented.

According to the new CDC numbers, 9.4 million illnesses, 55,961 hospitalizations and 1,351 deaths per year are caused by known foodborne pathogens. The data represent the first comprehensive analysis released by CDC since a 1999 paper published by Dr. Paul Mead. That paper estimated that known foodborne pathogens caused 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations and 1,800 deaths.
According to the new estimates, the pathogens that cause the most illnesses were noro-virus (58%); nontyphoidal Salmonella spp (11%); C. perfringens (10%), and Campylobacter (9%). The leading causes of death by pathogen were nontyhpoidal Salmonella spp (28%); T. gondii (24%); L. monocytogenes (19%) and norovirus (11%). The paper does not attribute foodborne illnesses to their food sources.

CDC said that "unspecified agents" also cause 38.4 million foodborne illnesses, 71,878 hospitalizations and 1,686 deaths annually. CDC defines unspecified agents as "a group of less understood agents" that may be possible causes of foodborne illness, including mushroom and marine biotoxins and little-known bacterial pathogens like Aeoromonas, Edwarsiella, and Plesiomonas. Unspecified agents caused 80 percent of all illnesses and 56 percent of all hospitalizations and deaths.

CDC said in a press release that the papers provide the most accurate estimate to date about which foodborne pathogens are causing the most illness, as well as estimating the proportion of foodborne illness without a known cause.

To view a series of charts depicting the data, click here:

Source: AMI

Cargill Turkey brands partner with Feeding America

Ringing in the holiday spirit, Cargill Turkey Brands continue the year-end quest to help feed Americans who live without consistent access to food. Cargill has set its sights high to help provide 1.75 million meals to Americans facing hunger with a $250,000 donation to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization. In the home stretch toward the New Year, Cargill asks others to join in by volunteering, donating or spreading the word about things other families can do to contribute.

More than a million Americans in need will be fed this holiday season as a result of Cargill's donation to Feeding America. Cargill's Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkey brands have paired up with Feeding America for the second consecutive year to help provide 1.75 million meals to Americans facing hunger.

Source: Cargill Meat Solutions

Minnesota processor gets $20,000 pollution penalty

A western Minnesota meat processing plant has been given a $20,000 civil penalty for discharges of blood- and manure-contaminated water.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Wednesday it has reached an agreement with Noah's Ark Processors. The agreement resolves alleged violations of water quality laws and rules at the company's meat processing plant and animal hide storage building in Dawson, reports the Associated Press.

The agency says an inspection last August found blood-contaminated water and untreated manure discharging to the ground. The company has stopped the discharges and worked to recover contamination as well as submitted plans to prevent future discharges.

Source: Associated Press