Humane requirements for animals raised for meat, and a petition for more stringent salmonella standards, were among the legal issues discussed by the regulatory expert for a major meat industry association at the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE).
Mark Dopp, senior vice president for regulatory and scientific affairs and general counsel at the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), started his Jan. 29 IPPE lecture with an update about Proposition 12, a measure passed by California voters in November 2018. Passed with 62% of the vote, Proposition 12 prohibits confining “covered animals” in a “cruel manner.” It specifies that brood sows must be provided with 24 square feet of space per animal, and 43 square feet for veal calves.
“That’s more than a five-by-eight-foot pen per animal,” Dopp said. “That’s not possible, not today.” He claimed that under that standard, a barn now used for 200 veal calves could house no more than 87.
Dopp called Proposition 12 “the camel’s nose under the tent” because it applies to cuts of animals sold in California, no matter where the animal was raised, slaughtered or processed. It also applies to meat from the offspring of a brood sow.
NAMI sued in late 2019 to challenge the law as unconstitutional, but the trial judge denied a preliminary injunction. The suit is now in front of the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth District, and “it will probably go to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Dopp said.
Dopp also discussed a petition that William Marler, a Seattle-based personal injury lawyer who specializes in foodborne illness cases, filed with the USDA regarding standards for salmonella. He called this “not even the 800-pound gorilla in the room – it’s bigger than that.”
The major issue is that Marler is seeing to have salmonella declared an “adulterant,” on the ground that it doesn’t occur “naturally” in meat and poultry. This has enormous implications, Dopp said, because shipping adulterated food across state lines is a federal felony.
Declaring salmonella an adulterant won’t change anything or make food any safer, Dopp said: “I’m fond of saying that Congress can repeal the law of gravity, but things will still fall when I drop them.”