A new industry-wide E. coli 0157:H7 task force has been formed by the beef industry to address food safety issues.

"We want to define a coherent strategy for attacking the food safety issue, all the way from the producer to the consumer, to make sure we take every step necessary," says National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) CEOChuck Schroeder. Schroeder has been named chairman of the task force.

The task force will focus on where money should best be spent to help eradicate E. coli 0157:H7, and is expected to include representatives from the packing and processing industry, marketing channels, the scientific community and state governments, as well as beef producers. The group, to be formed in the next few weeks, will consider research and consumer education needs and decide how to further advance priority initiatives, Schroeder says.

The task force will analyze various technologies, such as biotechnology and cold pasteurization, and consider their incorporation into beef production and processing as possible solutions to food safety issues, Schroeder says.

China has lowered its beef duties. Effective October 1, they released a list of new import duties that lowers many of the tariffs placed on imported beef. According to Joel Haggard, vice president-Asia Pacific for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the new duties were put into effect with surprising speed.

Perhaps the biggest implication for U.S. exporters, he notes, was the reduction in offal duties from 45% to 23%. Chilled and frozen beef duties were dropped from 50% to 40%. The tariff announcement is believed to be related to China's efforts to gain worldwide support for its entry into the World Trade Organization.

The European Union (EU) is appealing the rule on the beef ban. The EU filed an appeal of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) rule that the EU ban on imports of beef produced with growth promotants is in conflict with free-trade rules. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body formally adopted the rules two days after the appeal.

"Using growth promotants in beef production is a scientifically sound and safe practice that has enabled U.S. beef producers to produce leaner animals more efficiently for more than 30 years," says NCBA president-elect Clark Willingham, Dallas.

The WTO has no more than 90 days to rule on the appeal.

E. coli sample efforts were released last month by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). "The third fiscal year of the FSIS sampling program for E. coli 0157:H7 ended with two positive results in fiscal 1997, bringing the total number of positive samples to nine in about 16,500 samples that have been taken by FSIS personnel in federal plants, retail stores, state-inspected plants and import establishments since October 1994," says Tom Billy, FSIS administrator.

Billy says reports of positive samples by the media should not detract from news of the important steps being taken by the industry to improve the safety of meat or relieve food preparers of responsibility to properly store and cook meat.

Excel's Sterling, CO, plant will close effective November 29. The plant, which processes 700-900 cows per day, will close because it's not meeting financial performance expectations, says Mark Klein, public affairs official for Cargill, Excel's parent company. Excel also operates a plant in nearby Fort Morgan and plans to continue investing in that facility, Klein says.

A USDA administrative law judge dismissed a complaint against IBP charging the packer with giving undue preference to a group of Kansas feedyards. The formal complaint was filed by the Packers and Stockyards Administration in 1995, alleging that pricing agreements offered to select feedyards by IBP gave the feedyards an unfair competitive advantage.

"There is no evidence of any injury to competition in the fed-cattle industry in Kansas resulting from the agreement," says USDA Administrative Law Judge Victor Palmer in his decision. "So long as the methods of transaction used were not anti-competitive in nature, there is no reason for the government to stifle such innovation by interfering with business judgment and freedom to contract."

FFA chapters and members across the U.S. can now benefit from a new fund-raiser known as the Dectomax "Next Generation Program" offered by Pfizer Animal Health.

FFA chapters that enroll in the program will have the opportunity to receive $3 for every Dectomax bottle cap or Pour-On box top they collect and return to Pfizer.

In addition, participating chapters will receive a supply of rebate forms to give Dectomax users. For each of these validated rebate forms a producer submits, the designated FFA chapter will receive an additional $3. Producers can choose to designate any portion of their product rebate back to their local chapter.

For more information on this program and the new Next Generation Scholarship program, contact your local FFA chapter.