Pilgrim's Pride Corp. announced that the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas has approved the amended joint plan of reorganization of the Company and six of its subsidiaries that are debtors and debtors in possession (the Debtors) in the Chapter 11 cases pending before the court.

Following a court hearing held December 8 in Ft. Worth, Judge D. Michael Lynn today entered an order confirming the amended plan of reorganization, paving the way for the company to exit bankruptcy later this month. Pilgrim's Pride said that it expects to emerge from bankruptcy before the end of December.

"This is a proud day for everyone at Pilgrim's Pride who has worked so hard over the past year to restructure our business," said Don Jackson, president and CEO, after the court hearing. "The past 12 months have been filled with tremendous challenges and unprecedented opportunities. There have been a lot of tough, painful decisions made about the future of this company, yet our employees have joined together to create a new market-driven organization that is clearly focused on serving our customers."

In September, Pilgrim's Pride filed a joint plan of reorganization and related disclosure statement with the court. Under terms of the joint plan of reorganization, Pilgrim's Pride has entered into an agreement to sell 64% of the new common stock of the reorganized Pilgrim's Pride to JBS U.S.A. for $800 million in cash. The completion of the transaction is subject to the closing of an exit facility for senior secured financing in an aggregate principal amount of up to $1.75 billion, certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Source: Pilgrim's Pride Corp.

Russia plant bans may lead to total pork ban

Days after Russia banned pork imports from seven plants due to excessive levels of an antibiotic, four more plants were added to the banned list, and the head of a top industry lobby said that the country may ban all pork imports due to delays in agreeing on meat safety certification.

"U.S. imports may halt for a certain period of time, as until now a mutually acceptable veterinary certificate has not been agreed," National Meat Association head Sergei Yushin said in an interview with Reuters. “We are not closing Russia to U.S. imports, but the technical issue of the certificate exists.”

Sergei Dankvert, the head of Russia's watchdog group Rosselkhoznadzor, stated that the plant bans resulted from high levels of the antibiotic oxytetracycline. He said that U.S. suppliers in general were not meeting Russian standards. "The U.S. official (Food Safety Inspection) Service has said it would not observe Russian food safety standards, without giving any explanation," Dankvert said.

"Therefore, since the end of October, we have intensified our monitoring of U.S. pork products," he said. "If we do blanket monitoring, or intensive monitoring, then the number of candidates for bans will increase."

Smithfield has seen several of its plants added to the ban list, including its largest facility in Tar Heel, N.C. CEO Larry Pope touched on that subject during the company's quarterly conference call. "Russia has been good, although closing as we speak. Mexico has become a big, big market for this company." He added that China should reopen its borders to U.S. pork imports “almost imminently.”

The American Meat Institute issued a statement that Russia's pork bans are inconsistent with standards set by Codex Alimentarius, the international, food safety standard-setting body.

“Codex Alimentarius sets tolerance levels for very low residues of drugs commonly used to treat pigs – residues so low they are harmless to human health, according to scientists. Russia, however, has adopted a “zero tolerance” for any level of some antibiotic residues. Russia stands alone globally in holding the U.S. to these standards,” said J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president.

“Russia’s continued actions to move toward full closure of its market to U.S. pork are frustrating and inexplicable trade barriers that simply cannot be supported scientifically. U.S. pork has an excellent reputation for safety worldwide. We appreciate USDA’s efforts to better understand the rationale behind Russia’s actions and to bring the actions to a swift resolution so that full pork trade with Russia may resume,” he added.

Source: Reuters

Center for ensuring safety of food imports opens

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius commended the Department of Homeland Security for opening a center devoted to ensuring the safety of foods imported to the United States. The Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) for Import Safety is operating under the direction of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It was created on the recommendation of President Obama's Food Safety Working Group, which is charged with advising the President on how to upgrade the U.S. food safety system for the 21st century.

"As co-chairs of the Food Safety Working Group, we are committed to improving the safety of food produced in the United States, and also improving the safety of all the food that makes it to the American consumers' dinner tables," said Secretary Sebelius. "With so much food coming from abroad, we must do all we can to ensure that it conforms to the same safety standards as our own food safety systems."

"As part of the Food Safety Working Group's efforts to strengthen the food safety system in this country, we identified close cooperation between federal agencies as a key to achieving real progress," said Secretary Vilsack. "The new CTAC announced today is an important step toward the type of collaboration necessary to ensure that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply."

"In addition to guarding against terrorism and crime, securing our borders and facilitating legitimate trade involve ensuring the safety of imported products," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "This new targeting center will enhance the inspection of goods entering our country by centralizing and strengthening federal efforts to protect U.S. consumers."

The import safety CTAC, located in Washington, D.C., is one of CBP's six commercial targeting centers in the U.S. It will specifically target shipments of imported cargo, including food, for possible safety violations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and other partnering government agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, will provide on-site expertise at the Center.

"The expertise FSIS, FDA, and our other partners bring to the table is invaluable to ensuring that America's imported food supply is safe," said CBP Acting Commissioner Jayson P. Ahern. "We look forward to continued cooperation with the Food Safety Working Group and its future recommendations."

As part of its collaboration with CBP, FSIS will extend its enforcement efforts to target ineligible imports investigate suspicious shipments based on manifest information filed prior to the arrival of goods at U.S. ports.

Source: USDA

Ruby Tuesday Massachusetts supplier fined for underweight steaks

A supplier for Ruby Tuesday was fined $700 for serving steaks smaller than advertised at five restaurants in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs levied the fine on Colorado Premium Foods after an investigation found that the restaurant chain's 7-ounce and 9-ounce sirloins and 12-ounce ribeye all came underweight.

Ruby Tuesday confirmed the fine, the Boston Globe reports, but had no further information. “We’ll dig deeper on this,’’ said a Ruby Tuesday spokeswoman, Meridith Hammond. “But we believe this in no way impacted our guests as far as the food they received.’’

Source: Boston Globe