A recent recall of 8,500 pounds by Cargill Meat Solutions because the product may have been contaminated with the rareE. coliO26 variant may help hasten changes in food safety regulations. After the recent outbreak ofE. coliO26 that has sickened three people in Maine and New York, federal regulators are now considering whether to make it illegal to sell ground beef containing six strains ofE. colibesides the common O157:H7, reports theNew York Times.

One of the arguments against the additional regulations was that there had never been an outbreak tied to the rarer strains of E. coli. This new outbreak, however, “might act as a catalyst,” James Marsden, a professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University, said about the outbreak and recall. “Clearly its back on the front burner, that’s for sure, and clearly USDA is under pressure.”

FSIS has previously said that it was reluctant to make additional forms of E. coli illegal in ground beef until a rapid test that could detect the strains was made available. Those tests are expected to be available late next year.
In a written statement to the Times, FSIS Undersecretary Dr. Elizabeth Hagen said, “In order to best prevent illnesses and deaths from dangerous E. coli in beef, our policies need to evolve to address a broader range of these pathogens, beyond E.coli O157:H7. Our approach should ensure that public health and food safety policy keeps pace with the demonstrated advances in science and data about food-borne illness to best protect consumers.”

American Meat Institute executive vice president James Hodges said that the recall did not change the industry’s position that additional tests for non-O157:H7 strains would be too costly and that the money would be better spent on measures to keep the bacteria out of meat in the first place.

“We have never said it wasn’t a potential public health problem,” Mr. Hodges said. “The debate is what’s the appropriate regulatory program.”

Source: New York Times

Japan may boost beef, pork imports next year

Japan may boost beef imports next year by 1.3 percent and pork imports by 0.5 percent, according to a report by the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The U.S. share of beef would remain steady at 105,000 metric tons while the overall import level would raise from 695,000 tons to 704,000 tons. Pork imports may rise from 1.151 million tons to 1.157 million tons, again with the U.S. share remaining flat at 514,000 tons.

“The Japanese beef market clearly lacks a sufficient supply of affordable beef to meet the average consumer’s needs,” the FAS said in the report. “Overall market growth has been seriously hampered by a lack of medium-quality grain fed cuts that only the United States can provide.”

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Japan’s livestock herds may have reduced beef and pork production by 1 to 2 percent this year, reports Bloomberg News. The FAS reported that the raise in pork imports would be due to “an increase in prepared/processed products from China, rather than the increase of seasoned ground pork from the United States/Canada.”

Source: Bloomberg

Chinese meat processor completes pork plant expansion

Zhongpin Inc., a leading meat and food processing company in the People's Republic of China, announced that it has completed the five-month expansion and improvement of its pork plant in the city of Anyang in the Henan province.

Zhongpin invested about $6.6 million in the reconstruction project to further improve the plant's pre-cooling room, slaughtering line equipment, refrigeration systems, sewage treatment system, and ancillary facilities. With the expansion, Zhongpin has increased the plant's capacity by 35 percent to an annual capacity of 85,000 metric tons from the previous 63,000 metric tons. Chilled pork capacity now accounts for about 70 percent of the plant's capacity, up from the prior 60 percent of capacity. The plant's new operations are running well and will be producing at higher volumes in the near future.

Xianfu Zhu, chairman and CEO of Zhongpin Inc., explained, "Our improvements in this facility, especially for chilled pork, demonstrate our already good success in Anyang and the north China market. We believe the new capacity will help us meet the rapidly growing demand for high-quality chilled pork that we expect in north China during the next several years."

Zhongpin's Anyang plant began operations in September 2007. This expansion in 2010 was the plant's first major reconstruction. During the expansion, the Anyang plant's operations and pork distribution system to the market operated as usual. In Zhongpin's marketing strategy, north China is one of the company's important markets. The expansion in the Anyang plant will help satisfy the growing demand for Zhongpin's products in this important region.

Source: Zhongpin Inc.

Burger King bought in whopper of a deal

\Burger King has agreed to be bought by investment form 3G Capital in a deal valued at $4 billion, or $24 a share. The sale represents a 46% premium over Burger King's closing price of $16.45 on Tuesday, the day before news reports said the company was up for sale, reports CNN.

Burger King's board of directors has already approved the deal, which is slated to close during the fourth quarter. Burger King's chairman and chief executive, John Chidsey, will remain CEO during the transition and then take on the newly created role of co-chairman.

Source: CNN

Fallsburg, Murray's Chicken consider new plant location

One month after the FSIS shut down Murray’s Chicken plant in Fallsburg, N.Y., for four days, residents are still concerned about what would happen if the business closed or moved out of town.

“This town is done,” said one resident, reports the Times Herald-Record. “Everybody gets business from that place.”

The reasoning behind the closing of the plant and the idling of its 350 workers is still unclear, but the town clearly realizes the importance of Murray’s Chicken.

"They are the largest utilizer of our sewer service. It employs hundreds of people," said Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante. "It would be a devastating blow to our tax base."

The town is in discussion with owner Murray Bresky about replacing the plant, and two locations within the town have already been indentified. Dean Koplik, vice president of operations, said that the company is still working with federal officials to address concerns within the current plant, but added that the company is open to relocating within the town.

"Quite frankly, Murray was born and raised in Fallsburg, and as long as we're in business, we're going to be in Fallsburg," he said. "We're not picking up and moving to Pennsylvania or Mississippi or any other place."

Source: Times Herald-Record

Early registration for E. coli conference ends today

The early registration discount for the upcoming conference, “Prevention ofE. coliO157:H7 for Beef Further Processors,” ends today, September 3rd. The conference will be held September 28-29 at the Four Points by Sheraton Chicago O’Hare. Attendees who register before the deadline can save $100.

This year’s conference includes an all-star line-up of experts from industry, academia, and USDA. The first day will focus on E. coli O157:H7 policy and new technologies and what processors can expect to see in the coming years. The second day will focus on HACCP validation and how processors can be prepared for the new FSIS HACCP validation guidelines. Additionally speakers will address the creation of effective and up-to-date prerequisite programs and HACCP plans.

This conference is being hosted by North American Meat Processors Association, the American Association of Meat Processors, the American Meat Institute Foundation, the American Meat Science Association, the Chicago Midwest Meat Association, the Eastern Meat Packers Association, the International HACCP Alliance, the National Meat Association, the Southeast Meat Association, and the Southwest Meat Association. In addition, the conference is being held with the support of the Beef Industry Food Safety Council and in collaboration with the USDA FSIS Office of Outreach, Employee Education, and Training.

For more information, including a detailed agenda of speakers and topics, go to www.namp.com.

Source: NAMP