President Barack Obama said the trade accord signed with South Korea late last week is a “win-win” for both countries that shows the alliance between them is “stronger than ever,” Reuters reports. He added that the deal offers more choices for Korean consumers and more jobs for American workers.

The agreement, which had been delayed numerous times, was finalized after an agreement to change automobile provisions in the free-trade deal, removing an obstacle that had prevented agreement on the pact during Obama’s visit to South Korea last month.

The White House said Dec. 3 the agreement will increase U.S. exports by as much as $11 billion and support at least 70,000 U.S. jobs. Under the agreement, both nations will scale back initial tariff cuts for cars, and South Korea said it would allow more imports of U.S.-made vehicles that meet American standards rather than Korean rules. The U.S. will maintain a 25 percent tariff on truck imports for eight years instead of beginning to phase it out immediately.

The agreement failed to include any changes to U.S. beef imports to South Korea, but President Obama said that the U.S. will keep trying for “full access” to the Korean market for beef exports. Currently, South Korea will continue to limit imports to U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months of age.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) Friday expressed his disappointment that the trade barriers to U.S. beef exports weren't addressed in the U.S.-South Korea agreement, reports the website The Hill.

“I am deeply disappointed that today’s deal fails to address Korea’s significant barriers to American beef exports, which President Obama identified this June as one of the critical outstanding issues that must be resolved before moving this free trade agreement forward,” Baucus said in a statement.

Despite there being no breakthroughs on expanded beef exports, the meat industry was very complimentary toward the new agreement.

“This FTA will be a boost to our members and to the entire red-meat industry; and it would not have been possible without the dedication of the U.S. Trade Representative's office,” said National Meat Association CEO Barry Carpenter. "As well as important work that the Administration has done, we are also grateful to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus for being instrumental in reopening beef trade with Korea in 2008. We look forward to his continued support as we work to gain greater access for U.S. beef exporters," said Carpenter.

American Meat Institute President J. Patrick Boyle likewise praised the agreement and called for Congress to ratify the agreement as soon as possible.

“The tariff reduction schedule for pork will further strengthen the U.S. position in this important and growing market,” he said. “AMI estimates that once the FTA is fully implemented, beef and pork exports to South Korea could increase by $2 billion and resulting in more than 26,700 new American jobs.”

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Economist Gregg Doud called the FTA the beef industry’s “stimulus package” and noted that sales of beef to South Korea should exceed $500 million this year, making the country the fourth-largest exporter of U.S. beef.

“While we support continuing efforts to obtain full market access, it is imperative we act quickly to prevent our competitors from having the upper hand.  We must remember that this is not over. Congress must ratify this agreement and should do so quickly. If Australia beats us to the signing table, they would have a 2.67 percent tariff advantage over U.S. beef for the next 15 years. When this agreement is finally signed, sealed and delivered, it would phase out Korea’s 40 percent tariff on beef imports. We are talking about $325 million in tariff reductions annually once fully implemented.”

Sources: Reuters, NMA, AMI, NCBA

72,000 pounds of chicken salad recalled

The Suter Co. Inc., a Sycamore, Ill., establishment, is recalling approximately 72,000 pounds of canned chicken salad products that may contain foreign materials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.

The products subject to recall include 8.2-ounce packages of "Bumble Bee Lunch On The Run Chicken Salad Complete Lunch Kit” and 3.5-ounce packages of "Bumble Bee Chicken Salad With Crackers."

The cans of chicken salad bear the establishment number "P-169" inside the USDA mark of inspection and the lot code "0225XXQBC" printed on the package. The chicken salad products were assembled between Aug. 14 and Aug 28, 2010, and shipped to distributors and retail stores nationwide.

The problem was discovered after consumer complaints about finding hard plastic in the product. FSIS has not received any reports of injury at this time.

Source: FSIS

Tamales with whey as ingredient recalled

Diana's Mexican Food Products, Inc. a Lawndale, Ca. establishment, is recalling approximately 41,670 pounds of chicken tamales because they contain an undeclared allergen, whey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced. Whey is a known allergen, which is not declared on the label.

The products subject to recall are 15-pound boxes of "Diana's Central Meat Market Chicken Tamales (wrapped in rice paper)", with each box containing 48 5-ounce tamales. Each package bears the establishment number "P-4158" inside the USDA mark of inspection. The tamales were produced between February 2010 and Dec. 2, 2010, and were distributed to restaurants in California.

The problem was discovered by FSIS during a routine inspection. FSIS and the company have received no reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Source: FSIS

Pinnacle Foods to consolidate meat-canning operations

Pinnacle Foods Group LLC announced supply chain improvements as part of its ongoing efforts to enhance the long-term strength of its leading brands. Pinnacle will consolidate the manufacturing of its Nalley’s Chili and Brooks Beans from Tacoma, Wash., into its Armour canned meat plant in Fort Madison, Iowa. This consolidation is contingent upon the final approval of applicable state and local incentives in Iowa.

Pinnacle Foods’ acquisition of Birds Eye Foods in December, 2009, resulted in the company owning two meat canning plants, producing similar products, with excess production capacity. The consolidation into one plant will result in a more efficient supply chain. Fort Madison was selected because it has the best production capabilities and is geographically situated closer to the source of ingredients.

The Nalley’s brand was founded in 1918 and is best known for its chili. The Tacoma plant employs approximately 160 people.

“The difficult decision to close the Tacoma facility was made only after a thorough analysis of all options. We are thankful to the Tacoma community and for the services of our Tacoma employees and we are committed to treating them with fairness and respect as we transition these facilities over the next few quarters,” says Mark Schiller, president of the Pinnacle Foods Duncan Hines Grocery Division. “Consumers can remain confident that they can continue to enjoy their favorite Nalley’s products because the Fort Madison plant will continue to produce Nalley’s products using the same great tasting recipes.”

Qualified employees will have the opportunity to apply for open positions at other Pinnacle Foods facilities, as well as receive professional career support services. At least 60 days notice prior to closure of the plant will be provided. Additionally, Pinnacle Foods will meet with the Tacoma union officials to discuss the timing of the plant closure and fair programs to help hourly employees transition.

To enable the move from Tacoma, Pinnacle Foods will add a 17,000 sq foot extension to the Fort Madison facility. In total Pinnacle Foods will invest approximately $20 million, create approximately 65 new jobs and retain approximately 430 jobs in Fort Madison.

Source: Pinnacle Foods Group LLC

Two Japanese restaurant chains winning with U.S. beef promotions

Two popular Japanese shabu-shabu restaurants are finding success this fall by featuring U.S. beef for their hot pot promotions, reports the Beef Checkoff Program.

The prominent family style restaurant chain, operated by Sato Restaurant Systems, annually consumes more than 1.1 million pounds of U.S. beef, and this month it started the American Beef Sato-shabu Premium Fair at its 196 outlets. During this single promotion, the chain expects to sell more than 100,000 meals using U.S. chuck eye roll.

"Sato Restaurant Systems is actively promoting U.S. beef, putting the 'We Care' logo on its TV commercials as well as menu books, posters and point-of-purchase materials," says Takemichi Yamashoji, senior marketing director for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF)-Japan, which contracts to manage foreign marketing programs for the beef checkoff. USMEF is leveraging beef checkoff investments and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) to help support the promotion.

Hot pot (shabu-shabu) is a popular winter menu choice at Japanese homes as well as family style restaurants, but family restaurant chains have begun featuring hot pot menus throughout the year as consumer demand has increased.

"As other foodservice companies are seeing the success of Sato Restaurant Systems (which doubled its usage of U.S. beef in 2009), we are receiving more inquiries on conducting hot pot promotions all year round," says Yamashoji.

Another major Japanese foodservice company, Wonder Table, which operates several restaurant chains, made the decision to shift from Australian beef to U.S. beef after participating in a USMEF trade team that visited the United States in May. Nabezo, a shabu-shabu and hot pot restaurant chain operated by Wonder Table, is now conducting an "American Beef Fair" at its 35 outlets. The chain expects to sell in excess of 66,000 pounds of U.S. beef during the promotion.

Source: Beef Checkoff