State records show that employees from several Arkansas poultry companies sued by Oklahoma over environmental pollution have given thousands of dollars to the Republican candidate for attorney general, which his opponent said Thursday creates a conflict of interest.

Republican Scott Pruitt has received at least $15,000 from employees of firms named in the pending lawsuit, according to campaign finance records filed by candidates with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, reports the Associated Press. The lawsuit, filed by the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office in 2005, alleges the companies polluted a watershed that straddles both states.

Democratic candidate Jim Priest said such contributions create an appearance of impropriety in the race. Priest said he has declined contributions from several people with ties to the poultry industry.

"I think it puts the attorney general in a conflict of interest," Priest said during a news conference at the state Capitol. "It gives the appearance of improper conduct. It raises suspicions in the minds of the public."

Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mikelson said, "One thing we consider, and our employees likely consider in deciding who to support, is which candidate is backed by the plaintiffs lawyers who continue to threaten our business with endless litigation. In this race, Mr. Priest is clearly the plaintiffs lawyers' candidate. Consequently, it's no surprise to us that some of our employees chose to contribute money to his opponent." Tyson is one of the companies named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by Drew Edmondson, who did not seek reelection for attorney general so that he could run at the Democrat candidate for governor. He lost in the primary by less than 1 percent to his opponent, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. Askins also received contributions from the poultry industry.

Source: Associated Press

Pilgrim's Pride says Q3 results show “continued improvement”

Pilgrim's Pride Corp. reported net earnings of $57.9 million, or $0.27 per share, on net sales of $1.7 billion for the third quarter ended September 26, 2010. For the comparable quarter a year ago, the company reported net earnings of $82.7 million, or $1.07 per diluted share, on total sales of $1.7 billion.

"When compared to the second quarter of 2010, our financial performance in the third quarter reflects continued improvement in operating efficiencies and cost control," said Don Jackson, Pilgrim's president and chief executive. "Our operational focus on improving yields, labor and other plant-related costs is driving better efficiencies, and we remain focused on sales mix and price improvement."

Pilgrim's said sales volumes rose across its retail and foodservice segments when compared to a year ago and the company succeeded in bringing in new, higher-margin business during the quarter. When compared to the second quarter of 2010, gross margin as a percentage of sales in the third quarter increased across the company's retail, foodservice and commodity channels.

Jackson said the company is on track to restart deboning operations at its idled processing plant in Douglas, Ga., in mid-November 2010 to support other plants, with slaughter operations to begin in January 2011. The company continues to target further expansion later in 2011 and 2012.

"We are optimistic about the outlook for chicken heading into 2011," Jackson said. "While all of us are concerned about higher grain prices and the uncertain economy, there are several encouraging signs heading into next year. Given the reduction in beef supply and the higher prices that are expected for beef and pork, chicken should be attractively positioned with consumers who are looking for the best value. As a result, many of our customers are planning to feature chicken more prominently on their menus or in their stores next year. We are already seeing an increase in foodservice demand for next year."

For the first three quarters of fiscal 2010, the company reported net income of $45.3 million, or $0.21 per share, on sales of nearly $5.1 billion.

Source: Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.

Maple Leaf Foods posts Q3 loss

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reported its financial results for the third quarter ended September 30, 2010. Net loss in the quarter, which included $48.1 million of non-cash pre-tax adjustments, was $16.1 million compared to net earnings of $22.5 million last year. Year-to-date net loss was $4.4 million compared to net earnings of $30.2 million last year.

Third quarter sales of $1,293.2 million were consistent with last year. Excluding currency impacts related to the U.K. and U.S. bakery operations and fresh pork sales, sales increased by 2%. Improved results in the Meat Group, supported by better performance in fresh pork and poultry, were partly offset by lower earnings in the Bakery Products Group, mostly due to lower volume and increased investment to support product launches, advertising and promotions.

Source: Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods gets rechartered

The Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF) has been re-chartered to add a consumer group representative.
Established in 1988, NACMCF formulates positions on the development of microbiological criteria, the review and evaluation of epidemiological and risk assessment data and methodologies for assessing microbiological hazards in foods. The committee provides recommendations to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS) on microbiological criteria by which the safety and wholesomeness of food can be assessed. That work includes criteria for microorganisms that indicate whether foods have been adequately and appropriately processed.

“NACMCF provides valuable information and recommendations to FSIS that further promote our food safety and foodborne illness prevention actions,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza.

NACMCF members are appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture in consult with the Secretary of HHS, with the advice on membership from the Departments of Commerce and Defense. There are currently 18 members on the Committee; an additional 12 members will be appointed in 2011. The balance of the committee membership consists of government and non-government scientists acting under special appointment.

Additional NACMCF information, including the current charter for the NACMCF, is available at or by contacting Karen Thomas-Sharp at (202) 690-6620.

Source: FSIS