Over the past week, the USDA has undergone changes in top leadership. Following 39 years with FSIS, Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety and FSIS Administrator Al Almanza retired. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the appointment of Carmen Rottenberg as acting deputy undersecretary for food safety and Paul Kiecker was named acting administrator for FSIS. Rottenberg and Kiecker will serve in these roles until presidential nominees are confirmed by the Senate.
“Highlights for me have been using a science-based approach to modernize the poultry slaughter inspection system, implementing the Public Health Information System (PHIS), reducing listeriosis and E. coli O157:H7 illnesses from FSIS-regulated products and adding six other dangerous strains of E. coli to the zero-tolerance list, and implementing performance standards for Campylobacter and Salmonella.” – Al Almanza reflecting on his time leading the USDA
Almanza has been hired by U.S.-based meat processor JBS to serve as the global head of food safety and quality assurance. The company has more than 300,000 customers in more than 150 countries. “During his long and storied career at FSIS, Al earned the respect and admiration of his peers for his team-based management approach and his willingness to partner with both industry and public health organizations to ensure the provision of safe, quality food to consumers,” said JBS Global President of Operations Gilberto Tomazoni in a company press release. “JBS is privileged to have someone of Al’s caliber join our company.”
On Saturday the USDA announced a Class I nationwide recall of 7,196,084 pounds of hot dog products from Marathon Enterprises, Inc. Produced between March 17, 2017 and July 4, 2017, the certain beef and pork hot dog and sausage items may contain bone fragments.
The issue was uncovered via the FSIS Complaint Monitoring System on July 10, which stated that pieces of bone were found in the product. No injuries have been reported yet.
USDA Recall Classification of Class I Recall: “This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
FSIS has posted a full list of the recalled items on its website.
Yesterday Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced that the USDA would be halting all imports of fresh beef from Brazil. The USDA has been inspecting all of the meat products entering the United States from Brazil since March, and has refused entry to 11% of fresh beef products. According to an agency press release, this figure is “substantially higher than the rejection rate of 1% of shipments from the rest of the world”. The increased inspection has resulted in refusal of entry to about 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef products over concerns related to public health, sanitary conditions and animal health.
“Although international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers. That’s what we’ve done by halting the import of Brazilian fresh beef.” – Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
The USDA is suspending shipments until the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture takes corrective action that the agency finds adequate.
On Friday the USDA announced a large recall of 325,000 pounds of meat and poultry fat and lard products by Supreme Cuisine. The Class I recall is due to a processing deviation that could cause bacterial pathogens to grow and survive in the products. The duck, beef and pork fat and lard products, which have a one-year shelf life, were produced and packaged from June 1, 2016 through May 8, 2017.
The issue was uncovered after Supreme Cuisine received a consumer complaint of a loose lid. There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of the products, and consumers are being urged to discard any of these products.
FSIS is providing a full list of the recalled products here on its website.
On Tuesday Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the posting of technical documents pertaining to the shipments of U.S. beef to China. Last month the United States and China reached a trade agreement that allowed the export of American beef to China, where the meat has been banned since 2003.
The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service posted the requirements for the Export Verification program for U.S. companies shipping to China. The program will allow packers to apply for approval to export to China. In addition, FSIS updated its online Export Library with China’s requirements for certifying U.S. beef.
According to the USDA, China’s beef imports have increased from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. As the world’s largest beef producer, the United States generated more than $5.4 billion in global sales last year.
Following three complaints of metal objects found in product packages, John Morrell and Co. has recalled about 210,606 pounds of ready-to-eat hot dog products. The following franks subject to the Class II recall were distributed to retail locations nationwide and produced on January 26, 2017: 14-oz sealed film packages containing Nathans Skinless 8 Beef Franks (use by date of August 19, 2017) and 16-oz sealed film packages of Curtis Beef Master Beef Franks (use by date June 15, 2017).
Thus far there have been no reports of adverse reactions or injury as a result of consuming these products.
Today U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue praised a trade agreement reached between the United States and China that is allowing the return of American beef to the Chinese market for the first time in 13 years. The ban has been in place since 2003 following a case of mad cow disease. However, China’s domestic cattle population is not keeping up with the increased consumer demand.
“This is tremendous news for the American beef industry, the agriculture community, and the U.S. economy in general. We will once again have access to the enormous Chinese market, with a strong and growing middle class, which had been closed to our ranchers for a long, long time. I commend the persistence of President Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the U.S. Trade Representative’s officials, and our own USDA professionals. I also thank our Chinese counterparts, who worked so hard to get this agreement into place. When the Chinese people taste our high-quality U.S. beef, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll want more of it.” – Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
Under the trade agreement, cooked Chinese poultry may be imported into the United States once issues related to safety and hygiene are addressed.
After only a few days in office, President Trump and his administration have placed a gag order on federal agencies, including the USDA and EPA. Workers are barred from communicating with the press, the public or members of Congress, according to several outlets. A memo was reportedly sent to the EPA, instructing the agency not to publish any press releases, social media posts or blogs until told otherwise.
The Washington Post reports that the chief of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Sharon Drumm sent an email to staff stating, “Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.” However, another memo sent out today by USDA Acting Deputy Administrator Michael Young said that he did not review the ARS guidance and would not have sent out such a draft. According to the Post, “his guidance does not place a gag order on publication to scientific journals, does not place a blanket freeze on press releases, or prohibit food safety announcements.”
Earlier this week, President Trump nominated Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, to lead the USDA.
This morning President-elect Donald Trump named Sonny Perdue, former governor of Georgia, to lead the USDA. The new agriculture secretary grew up on a farm in Georgia, has a doctorate in veterinary medicine, and owns the firm Perdue Partners, LLC, a global trading firm specializing in exporting U.S. goods.
His farming experience will be seen as a plus by many folks in the agriculture industry. However, the selection of Perdue also means there will be no Latinos in Trump’s Cabinet (this hasn’t happened since the Reagan administration).
Key issues in the agriculture sector that Trump’s administration will need to address include the 2018 farm bill, immigrant labor, the decline of farm income, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Today FDA updated its FSMA training strategy to reflect the progress made during 2016. The program, which targets farmers, small food processors and small produce merchant wholesalers, includes the following updates:
- Cooperative agreement for small and mid-size businesses involved in local food production awarded to the National Farmers Union Foundation
- Cooperative agreement for preparing food producers in Native American tribes awarded to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville
- Federal grants awarded for establishing regional centers to facilitate training under FDA’s partnership with USA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture