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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued guidance about new labeling requirements for raw or partially cooked mechanically tenderized beef products, including those injected with marinade or solution. In addition to stating that the products have been mechanically, blade or needle tenderized, the labels must also provide cooking instructions to ensure their proper handling by household consumers, restaurants and similar venues. Because mechanical tenderization has been linked to the possible introduction of pathogens into the interior of beef products, certain cooking time and temperature combinations can prevent foodborne illness. The labeling mandate takes effect in May 2016 or one year after the new requirements are published in the Federal Register. See USDA Press Release, May 13, 2015.   Issue 565

Food & Water Watch (FWW) has released an April 2015 report alleging that the scientific research used by federal agencies to evaluate animal drug safety “is very heavily influenced by corporate drug companies.” In particular, the report alleges that there were “virtually no independent, peer-reviewed” safety studies on one drug used as a growth promoter that was eventually withdrawn from the marketplace. “Most of the available research examined commercial dimensions of Zilmax, such as the drug’s impact on beef qualify, and more than three-quarters of the studies were authored and/or funded by industry groups, almost all of which were published in scientific journals sponsored and edited by industry groups,” opines FWW in an April 8 press release. “Many academic journals have failed to establish or enforce rules requiring scientists to publicly disclose financial conflicts of interest, which has allowed deeply conflicted research to distort the scientific discourse.” Citing these issues,…

The United States has appealed the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) ruling in favor of Canada and Mexico in a dispute over U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations requiring pork and beef products originating outside the United States to carry labels specifying their sources. The appeal notification circulated to WTO members indicated that the United States has challenged several of the panel’s findings, including that the detrimental impact does not stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions because “the amended COOL measure entails an increased recordkeeping burden and increased segregation,” “the current labels provided by the amended COOL measure have a potential for label inaccuracy,” and “the amended COOL measure continues to exempt a large proportion of muscle cuts.” Appeals are heard by three members of a permanent seven-member appellate body unaffiliated with any government, and the appellate body generally has three months to conclude its report. Additional information on the WTO panel’s…

A California state court has approved the settlement of a putative class action alleging that Barney’s Worldwide Inc., owner of the Barney’s Beanery restaurant chain, falsely advertised its beef as Kobe beef when a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ban on the import of beef from Kobe, Japan, was in effect. Nalbantian v. Barney’s Worldwide Inc., No. BC493145 (Cal. Super. Ct., Cty. of Los Angeles, approval entered October 23, 2014). The plaintiff had alleged that Barney’s advertised its menu as containing Kobe beef—which the plaintiff said indicates that the beef comes from Wagyu-breed cattle raised and slaughtered in Kobe, Japan—despite a USDA ban imposed due to fears of disease in May 2010. Under the settlement, the restaurant chain will use “Kobe beef” on its menu only if it is listed as “American Kobe beef” and will pay up to $220,000 in $10 gift certificates to any class member who submits a claim…

Confirming early reports discussed in Issue 536 of this Update, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has again ruled in favor of Canada and Mexico regarding U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulations requiring pork and beef products originating outside of the United States to bear labels indicating where each step in the production process occurred. The compliance panel found that the measure “accords to Canadian and Mexican livestock less favorable treatment than that accorded to like US livestock.” The panel also found that the rule’s 2013 amendment “increases the original COOL measure’s detrimental impact on the competitive opportunities of important livestock in the US market, because it necessitates increased segregation of meat and livestock according to origin; entails a higher recordkeeping burden; and increases the original COOL measure’s incentive to choose domestic over imported livestock.” Following the decision’s release, Mexican and Canadian trade officials issued a joint statement calling the COOL rule “a…

Health Canada has announced the implementation of new rules requiring mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) products to be labeled as such. Effective August 21, 2014, the mandatory labeling requirements—which previously applied only to federally registered producers of MTB cuts—now cover “all industry sectors selling uncooked MTB to other industry members or consumers,” including retailers, butcher shops, meat processors, and importers. Under the new rules, the labels must also include instructions for safe cooking that “emphasize the importance of cooking MTB to a minimum internal temperature of 63°C (145°F) and turning over mechanically tenderized steaks at least twice during cooking to kill harmful bacteria.” “Without clear labels, it is difficult for consumers to know which beef products have been mechanically tenderized,” said Minister of Health Rona Ambrose in an August 21, 2014, press release. “Today’s announcement, along with new industry labelling guidelines we have released, will help Canadians know when they are…

Federal charges have been brought against two owners and two employees of Rancho Feeding Operations, a Petaluma, California-based livestock slaughterhouse, for distributing condemned and diseased cattle in violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. United States v. Amaral, No. 14-cr-437 (N.D. Cal., filed August 14, 2014); United States v. Singleton, No. 14-cr-441 (N.D. Cal., filed August 18, 2014). As a result of the investigation giving rise to the charges, Rancho voluntarily recalled some 8.7 million pounds of beef products in February 2014. According to the criminal indictment and information, Jesse Amaral and Robert Singleton, who owned the operation, allegedly directed Eugene Corda, Rancho’s primary yardperson, and Felix Cabrera, the facility’s foreperson, to either (i) remove “USDA Condemned” stamps from cattle carcasses and to process them for transport and distribution, or (ii) place the heads of healthy cows, swapped for diseased heads—from “cancer eye cows”—next to the carcasses of diseased animals while…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced plans to implement “new traceback procedures when FSIS or another agency finds raw ground beef or bench trim presumptive positive for Escherichia coli O157:H7.” Under the new system, which takes effect October 14, 2014, the agency will ask suppliers to recall products that test positive for E. coli O157:H7 later in the supply chain if FSIS or another agency determines that contamination most likely occurred at the supplier’s establishment and if the product in question was sent to other grinding facilities. As explained in an August 13, 2013, press release, these new procedures “will allow the agency to trace contaminated ground beef back to its source more quickly, remove it from commerce, and find the root cause of the incident to prevent it from recurring.” To this end, FSIS will begin traceback investigations as soon as it…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has proposed a rule requiring that “all makers of raw ground beef products keep records” that would allow FSIS to conduct timelier recalls of potentially contaminated meat. The proposed rule would require retailers that mix meats from multiple sources to keep more detailed records identifying the source. According to a July 16, 2014, press release, previous FSIS efforts to encourage raw ground beef retailers’ maintenance of clear records have been insufficient in aiding the service in tracing the source of contaminated meat. “The improved traceback capabilities that would result from this proposal will prevent foodborne illness by allowing FSIS to conduct recalls of potentially contaminated raw ground products in a timelier manner,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Brian Ronholm. FSIS will accept comments on its proposed rule for 60 days following publication in the Federal…

A California state trial court has approved the settlement agreement in a class action against Innovative Dining Group LLC (IDG), owner of the Boa Steakhouse and Sushi Roku chains, alleging that the restaurants falsely advertised their menu as containing Kobe beef. Hall v. Innovative Dining Grp. LLC, No. BC493144 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cty., motion granted May 30, 2014). Plaintiffs claimed that using the term “Kobe beef” implies that the beef came from Wagyu cattle raised and slaughtered in the Kobe region of Japan, but IDG’s restaurants advertised Kobe beef on their menus even while the U.S. Department of Agriculture banned beef imports from that region from May 2010 to August 2012. While admitting no wrongdoing, IDG has agreed to issue $20 gift certificates to customers who can prove that they purchased a Kobe beef menu item, $10 gift certificates to any class member who submits a claim, and…

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