Wastewater Discharges Kill Fish, FDA Answers Questions to New Feed Rule

By Tina Caparella

In early June, Smithfield Foods, Inc., had another wastewater discharge into the Skippack Creek from its Souderton, PA, facility – its sixth in two years – resulting in a fish kill, according to the company’s annual report filed June 26, 2008, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) spokesman Dennis Harney reported 5,000 fish were killed.

An initial investigation by Smithfield revealed the discharge into the creek that runs behind the facility was condenser water from its MOPAC rendering plant that had bypassed the wastewater treatment facility. Notice of the release was given the same day to state environmental authorities and a written report was prepared to the Pennsylvania DEP and Fish and Boat Commission. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun its investigation into the discharge.

The June discharge is the fourth at the Souderton facility since August 10, 2007, when another wastewater release reached Skippack Creek. DEP reports over 10,000 fish were killed. Four months later, on December 5, 2007, the facility experienced what the annual reports calls an “operational upset” in a part of the chlorinated system of its wastewater treatment plant. DEP reports the incident as a chlorine discharge into Skippack Creek that resulted in 1,000 fish being killed. Smithfield notified the state’s DEP and Fish and Boat Commission of the discharge, stating the chlorination system had already been reconfigured to prevent a recurrence and that the facility intended to replace the existing chlorination system pending approval of plans that had been submitted to the state prior to the upset. Although not mentioned in Smithfield’s annual report, Harney said there was another discharge into the creek on December 21, 2007, this time a small amount of solid material; however, no fish were killed. All four incidents are still under investigation by federal and state authorities and Smithfield states it is fully cooperating with the investigations.

The annual report acknowledges and DEP confirms that there were two wastewater incidents at the Souderton facility in 2006, both of which were resolved by a consent order and agreement with the state of Pennsylvania. Civil penalties and damages totaled $77,888 and Smithfield had to establish an enforceable schedule for the completion of a planned $5 million upgrade to the facility’s existing wastewater treatment system.

FDA Answers Questions to New Feed Rule

Since the April 25, 2008, publication of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) final feed rule, Substances Prohibited from Use in Animal Food or Feed, the agency has received numerous questions pertaining to the implementation of the rule. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has posted answers to 66 of the most frequently asked questions concerning the feed ban at www.fda.gov/cvm/bse_QA.htm.

Livestock Traceability Comments Sought

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking comments on its proposed amendment to require approved livestock facilities and listed slaughtering and rendering establishments to maintain certain records for five years. The notice was published in the July 7, 2008, Federal Register.

APHIS is proposing to amend Section 71.20, Subchapter C of Chapter I, Title 9, of the Code of Federal Regulations, to extend the records retention period from two to five years. Due to increased globalization, the threat of an animal disease introduction has increased during the past few years. In the case of chronic livestock diseases like bovine tuberculosis, signs and symptoms of the disease may not appear for years and apparently healthy animals may be found to be infected only at slaughter. In these cases, being able to trace the animals’ movements as far in the past as possible is important to identify any other potentially exposed or infected animals. Requiring the retention of certain records for five years would allow APHIS to trace the prior movements of diseased livestock further into the past than is currently possible, thus providing the opportunity to locate potentially infected or exposed livestock that might otherwise remain unidentified.

Currently there are no record retention provisions that apply to listed slaughtering and rendering establishments. APHIS believes it is necessary to amend the regulations to require that these establishments retain certain records for five years. APHIS is also proposing to require the operators of slaughtering and rendering establishments to sign listing agreements to document their agreement to comply with the requirements of the regulations for listed slaughtering and rendering establishments. Such agreements are currently required for approved livestock facilities, but not for slaughtering and rendering facilities. The proposed change would eliminate that inconsistency.

Documents to be retained include weight tickets, sales slips, and records of origin, identification, and destination that relate to livestock that are in, or that have been in, an approved facility.

Comments are due by September 5, 2008. For more information, contact Dr. Debra C. Cox, senior staff veterinarian, Surveillance and Identification Program, National Center for Animal Health Programs, Veterinary Services, APHIS, at (301) 734-4397.

Tyson Sells Canadian Beef Operations, Enters Joint Venture in India

In late June, Tyson Foods, Inc., signed a letter of intent to sell the packing, feed yard, and fertilizer assets of Lakeside Farm Industries, Ltd., and its subsidiary Lakeside Packers, to XL Foods, Inc., a Canadian-owned beef processing business. The $107 million (Canadian) transaction includes $57 million to be paid at closing with the remaining $50 million plus interest to be paid over a five-year period following closing. Tyson would retain the finished product inventory, accounts receivables, and accounts payables of the Lakeside operation as of the closing date. The transaction is subject to government approvals, and customary financing and agreements by the parties.

Based in Brooks, AB, Canada, Lakeside Farm Industries has operated successfully for many years, said Richard L. Bond, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, but no longer fits the long-term strategy of Tyson as its international focus is primarily in Asia, Mexico, and South America. Lakeside currently employs 2,300 team members and has the capacity to slaughter and process 4,700 cattle per day. The commodity boxed beef produced by the plant is primarily sold to customers in Canada and the United States.

XL Foods plans to continue operating the Lakeside facility after the sale is complete. XL is part of the Nilsson Bros. Group, a Canadian cattle feeding and marketing company. Nilsson entered into the meatpacking business in the late 1990s with the purchase of Edmonton Meat Packing and XL Foods. The business currently includes packing plants in Edmonton and Calgary, AB; Moose Jaw, SK; Omaha, NE; and Nampa, ID.

In a separate announcement, Tyson Foods has acquired 51 percent ownership of Godrej Foods, Ltd., a leading poultry processing business based in Mumbai, India. Godrej Foods is a subsidiary of Godrej Agrovet, Ltd., one of India’s leading agribusinesses. The joint venture will be called Godrej Tyson Foods, with annual sales initially expected to be in the range of $50 million and are anticipated to grow as operations are expanded.

The venture includes one chicken processing facility in Mumbai, in western India, and another in Bangalore, in the southern part of the country. The two plants have a combined production capacity of 60,000 birds per day and have approximately 1,000 contract production workers. The Godrej processing operations are supplied by six contracted hatcheries and a network of contracted broiler operations.

According to Rick Greubel, group vice president and international president for Tyson Foods, poultry production and consumption is growing in India. The country has a population of more than 1.1 billion people, and while per capita chicken consumption there is currently less than five pounds per year, its annual growth rate of more than 10 percent is among the highest in the world. Tyson and Godrej plan to immediately initiate efforts to expand the capacity of the poultry plants already in operation and build new processing plants in other parts of India, which will likely begin within the next several years.

Newsline – August 2008 RENDER | back