The USDA announced that its National Veterinary Services Laboratories will conduct confirmatory testing on swine samples collected at the 2009 Minnesota State Fair between August 26 and September 1. The pigs sampled at the time showed no signs of illness and were apparently healthy. The samples collected were part of a University of Iowa and University of Minnesota cooperative agreement research project funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which documents influenza viruses where humans and pigs interact at such as fairs.

The pigs “have probably gone to slaughter,” Gene Hugoson, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said on a conference call with reporters, Bloomberg reports. The state has not traced the animals back to their owners. Final results of the tests likely will be confirmed next week, Hugoson said.

“There is absolutely no food-safety risk from eating any kind of pork that has been contaminated at one time or another with H1N1,” Hugoson said. “Any pig that exhibits any type of an indication of sickness would not be accepted at slaughter.”

"Like people, swine routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses. We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. "We are working in partnership with CDC as well as our animal and public health colleagues and will continue to provide information as it becomes available."

USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories expects to have confirmatory results within the next few days.

"I want to remind people that people cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products," said Vilsack.

An outbreak of 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza occurred in a group of children housed in a dormitory at the fair at the same time samples were collected from the pigs, but no direct link to the pigs has been made. Information available at this time would suggest the children were not sickened by contact with the fair pigs.

Representatives from the meat industry have spoken up to help downplay any fears about eating pork. American Meat Association's President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle issued a statement that read, “Experts have said unequivocally that U.S. pork is safe to eat and that people can not contract the flu from eating pork or pork products. USDA scientists have underscored that novel H1N1 flu is not a foodborne disease; it is a respiratory infection that does not impact pork safety.

“The U.S. government has in place strict safeguards to protect the safety of our food supply. All pork sold in the U.S. is inspected by USDA and must meet strict safety standards. Every hog that is processed is inspected by a federal veterinarian to ensure only healthy hogs enter our food supply. The "Passed and Inspected by USDA" seal ensures that pork is wholesome and free from disease.

“Consumers can continue to enjoy pork as part of a healthy, balanced diet. It is important that consumers take care of their health. An essential part of staying healthy is eating a balanced diet that includes vitamin and mineral-rich foods like pork,” he concluded.

The National Pork Board issued a statement stressing three facts:
  --  Regardless of the outcome of the tests, you cannot get the H1N1 flu from eating pork. Pork and pork products remain safe to eat and handle.
  --  Scientific studies conducted by the USDA have proven that the H1N1 flu is a respiratory virus, not a food-borne illness, and it is not found in the blood or meat of pigs exposed to the virus.
  --  The two most important steps you can take to protect you and your family from the H1N1 flu are to wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. "I would like to echo the comments of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack," said Chris Novak, chief executive officer of the NPB. "People cannot get this flu from eating or handling pork."

Source: USDA, American Meat Institute, National Pork Board, Bloomberg

Slow grain harvest worrying producers

The slowest U.S. grain harvest in 30 years is increasing the feed cost for cattle, hogs and chickens, worsening a situation that already-high grain prices and a struggling economy had caused. Daily rains in the Midwest have halted combines, Reuters reports, and the resulting delays could hurt yields and grain quality and have already increased grain prices.

Grain analyst Rich Feltes said, "We should have, by this date, 4.5 billion bushels out of the field. We've only pulled out about 1.7 billion. There are more acres in the Midwest with double October precipitation than those with normal October precipitation."

"We were hoping for a great harvest that would bring (corn prices) down close to $3. Instead we have a so-so harvest that is bringing it closer to $4. That is a big difference," said poultry economist Paul Aho. He noted that the expected minor loss for poultry processors looks to become more serious before there will be a turnaround.

Source: Reuters

EPA ruling on Maryland's eastern shore ends chicken farm construction

New federal regulations have effectively shut down construction of new chicken houses on the Eastern Shore, the Associated Press is reportinh. The Environmental Protection Agency began regulating Maryland chicken farms in February. Since then, construction of new chicken houses has stalled. Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., says the new regulations effectively amount to a zero discharge policy. That means the farms would face stiff fines and criminal penalties if they allow any nutrients to enter waterways, regardless of what caused the runoff.

Source: Associated Press

Cargill recalls beef tongues from Wisconsin plant

Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., a Milwaukee, Wis., establishment is recalling approximately 5,522 pounds of beef tongues that may not have had the tonsils completely removed, which is not compliant with regulations that require the removal of tonsils from cattle of all ages, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

The product subject to recall is “Beef Tongue #1 White,” sold in various-weight cases that bear the establishment number "EST. 17690" on the product label. The beef tongue products were produced between the dates of October 12, 2009 and October 14, 2009, and were shipped to distribution centers in Illinois for further sale.

The problem was discovered during FSIS inspection activities at the establishment.

Source: FSIS

California company recalls uninspected meat products

Vatran's Fine Foods, Inc., a Tracy, Calif., establishment, is recalling approximately 11,500 pounds of assorted meat and poultry products because they were produced without the benefit of federal inspection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced.

The products subject to recall clude a variety of sausage products sold under the Montibella Sausage Company and Vatrans's brands. FSIS states that there may be additional products in commerce that bear one of the following establishment numbers: "EST. 34334," "P-34334," or "EST. 34334-M."

The meat and poultry products were produced on various dates ranging from March 2009 through October 2009, and were distributed to retail stores in the San Joaquin Valley area in California. The problem was discovered by FSIS. FSIS has received no reports of illness due to consumption of these products.

Source: FSIS

Clarification: Kobe Beef America not involved with last week's beef tongue recall

J.F. O'Neill Packing Company, based in Omaha, Neb., has recalled approximately 33,000 pounds of beef tongue today. Kobe Beef America was inaccurately named as one of the labels affected in the recall.

Kobe Beef America has not sold any beef tongue with a Kobe Beef America label since May of 2009. The beef tongue recalled was processed between July 1 and Oct. 8, 2009. Therefore, the recall announced does not include any Kobe Beef America products.

"Our foremost concern is to make sure our customers and distributors can rely on the quality of our meats," said Ty Freeborn of Kobe Beef America. "We want our clientele to know that there is no recall on our products. All our meats are safe to eat and enjoy."

J.F. O'Neill Packing Company issued the recall because many of the beef tongue may not have had the tonsils completely removed. According to reports, the USDA requires the tonsils to be removed during butchering because tonsils are known to carry the defective protein which is responsible for infecting cattle with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as BSE and Mad Cow Disease.

Kobe Beef America does work with the packing company and has had meat processed there in past. However, the company has not processed any beef tongue for sale during the timeframe named in the recall. For more information on this recall and how it affects Kobe Beef America, a Q&A has been posted on Kobe Beef America's Web site, Kobe Beef America is the oldest Kobe beef company in the U.S.

Source: Kobe Beef America