Meat derived using advanced meat recovery (AMR) equipment is safe and nutritious. Just as fruit processors use machines to remove fruit from peels, AMR systems help meat processors remove meat from difficult to trim bones, thereby eliminating waste. AMR systems also protect workers from repetitive motion disorders that can occur when hand-trimming bones. Banning back and neck bones from AMR systems will increase the potential for worker illness and will waste millions of pounds of nutritious meat.
More significantly, such a ban in the U.S. will not increase product safety for consumers. CSPI's call for such dramatic actions might be appropriate in a country with cattle herds afflicted by BSE. But it is not appropriate in a country -- or a continent -- that is BSE-free. It is definitely not needed in the U.S., which has taken more aggressive actions than any other BSE-free nation in the world to prevent the disease in its herds.
In the U.S., meat processors routinely remove spinal cords from spinal columns because spinal cords do not meet the definition of meat and cannot be included in meat products. Spinal cord removal is required for any back or neck bones destined for AMR systems.
Prohibitions on spinal cords were put in place with quality in mind. When you buy orange juice, you don't want to get orange rind; when buy meat, you don't want spinal cord. The spinal cord prohibition is not safety-related, because spinal cords and other neurological tissue like brains can be consumed safely in the U.S. if people so choose to purchase these products and if these products are clearly identified.
The nation's leading experts say that the risk of BSE in U.S. herds is extremely low and emphasize that U.S. policies should be reflective of our BSE-free status and our low risk profile. When cattle are BSE free, as U.S. herds are, any product derived from those cattle are safe to consume when handled and cooked properly. Given these facts, the U.S. meat industry will urge USDA to oppose this petition. Taking the actions requested by CSPI would set a dangerous precedent elevating rhetoric and hysteria over science and public health.
AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.