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U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine) have introduced a bill that "would allow meat and poultry products inspected by state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines," according to a press release. The senators assert that although the inspection programs of 27 states meet or exceed federal inspection standards and the meat is processed through facilities approved by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, the products are not allowed to be sold across state lines. "Our bipartisan, commonsense bill will create new markets for producers and give consumers more choices at the grocery store, while continuing to maintain the high quality and safety standards necessary to keep consumers healthy," Rounds was quoted as saying.

The Good Food Institute (GFI), with a group of plant-based and “clean” meat companies, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responding to a petition filed by the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association requesting that the agency restrict the definitions of “beef” and “meat” to products derived from live animals. GFI argues that USDA cannot grant the petition because the agency lacks authority over plant-based products, which are governed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. USDA is “authorized only to regulate meat labels to protect the health and welfare of consumers, not to prop up an industry or favor one production method over another,” the group asserts. In addition, the group argues that plant-based or clean meat product labels that “clearly and accurately disclose the nature of the product” do not violate the labeling requirements of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or the Federal Meat Inspection…

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has sent a letter asking the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the regulatory framework for cell-cultured food products. According to the letter, such food products include lab-grown meat and “animal-free” milk that can be produced from fermented yeast and proteins in cow’s milk. DeLauro requested a “comprehensive review” of the unique challenges in safety oversight, the regulations and labeling requirements that may already exist, and a determination on whether federal agencies have begun preparing for the product’s commercialization. “While not yet commercially available, the potential introduction of this new type of product into the nation’s food supply and economy raises many important questions,” DeLauro said in the letter. “To date, it remains unclear exactly how cell-cultured food products should be regulated . . . More information is needed for Congress to address this emerging sector in the United States and to ensure it…

With companies creating plant-based foods that look and taste like real meat—and even getting product placement in grocery meat cases—USA Today reports that U.S. cattle ranchers are disputing the categories of the products developed and sold by these companies, including Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. The United States Cattlemen’s Association has filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling for the agency to establish beef labeling that would limit the use of the terms “beef” and “meat” to products derived from animal sources and inform consumers about the difference between such products and “alternative protein sources.” The petition is reportedly aimed not only at “plant-based meat” substitutes such as tofu but also at “clean meat” grown in a lab from animal stem cells. The firm Allied Market Research reportedly predicts that plant-based meat businesses could sell $5.2 billion worth of products by 2020. About 60 percent of…

President Donald Trump has commuted the 27-year sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, a former kosher meatpacking plant executive convicted of 86 counts of federal bank fraud and money laundering. After Rubashkin was sentenced in 2009, politicians, law enforcement officials and legal experts argued that his case was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct, but the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and sentencing in 2011. Rubashkin and his family members were initially accused of a range of charges, including conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants for profit and child labor law violations.

Aaron Carroll, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, argues in a New York Times editorial that “panic-du-jour” about unhealthy foods encourages people to unnecessarily live “in terror or struggling to avoid certain foods altogether." Carroll asserts that the repeated condemnation of various food ingredients—including fat, cholesterol, meat, monosodium glutamate, genetically modified organisms and gluten—“shows how susceptible we are to misinterpreting scientific research and how slow we are to update our thinking when better research becomes available.” For example, fewer than one percent of Americans have a wheat allergy or celiac disease, Carroll states, but at least one in five regularly chooses gluten-free foods. “Gluten-free diets can lead to deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin B, folate and iron. Compared with regular bagels, gluten-free ones can have a quarter more calories, two and a half times the fat, half the fiber and twice the sugar. They also cost more,” he…

Three men have been convicted and sentenced for their roles in a conspiracy to sell at least 30 metric tons of horse meat as beef. The owner of a Danish supplier was sentenced to 3.5 years, while the company’s accountant received a suspended sentence. In addition, the owner of a London meat processor was given a 4.5- year sentence. The fraud was discovered in 2013, when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found horse meat in a shipment detained for inspection in Northern Ireland. According to The Guardian, inspectors found microchips for three horses previously owned as pets or riding horses. The scheme reportedly may have involved as many as 50,000 horses from across Europe. Additional details about the scheme appear in Issues 560 and 641 of this Update.   Issue 643

Europol has announced the arrests of 66 people following a four-year investigation into an organized-crime group accused of selling horsemeat "not suitable for consumption" as beef products. The investigation began in 2013 after Irish authorities found products sold as beef burgers that contained horsemeat and led to a Dutch man in Spain alleged to be the leader of the scheme. According to Europol's July 16, 2017, press release, "Investigators concluded that the Spanish element of this organisation was a small part of the whole European structure controlled by the Dutch suspect."   Issue 641

Two livestock trade associations have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) alleging the agency’s 2016 repeal of marking and labeling regulations violates the Meat Inspection Act and the Tariff Act. Ranchers-­Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of Am. v. U.S. Dept of Agric., No. 17-­0223 (E.D. Wash., filed June 19, 2017). The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) and the Cattle Producers of Washington (CPW) assert that the Meat Inspection Act requires that meat from animals slaughtered outside the United States be “marked and labeled as required for imported articles” and the Tariff Act requires “conspicuous” marking “as to indicate to an ultimate purchaser in the United States the English name of the country of origin of the article." After a World Trade Organization ruling against a U.S. requirement to include country­-of­-origin labeling (COOL) on imports of livestock from Canada and Mexico, USDA…

The holding company of Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA has reportedly agreed to pay a $3.2­-billion fine for the company’s involvement in a graft and bribery scandal involving more than 1,800 politicians, including President Michel Temer and former President Dilma Rousseff. J&F Investimentos, co-­owned by brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista, will pay the fine to U.S. and Brazilian authorities over a period of 25 years. Joesley Batista stepped down as chairman and member of the JBS SA board of directors; Wesley Batista has resigned from the board but remains chief executive of the company. The Batistas purportedly told Brazilian federal prosecutors they had paid about $186 million in bribes to politicians, and JBS SA had already agreed to pay $183.8 million to settle its criminal liability for the bribes. See NPR, May 31, 2017.   Issue 636  

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