WASHINGTON, Mar. 15, 2017 - Officials at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are working on an update to guidelines that will restrict how imported Dutch veal can be sold in the U.S.

Veal imports from the Netherlands – which resumed only last year after mad-cow related restrictions were lifted – were never intended to end up in meatballs and other ground products in the U.S. market, but that’s exactly what has been happening, according to U.S. producers who are unhappy about the foreign competition.

As of now the instruction on how to treat the Dutch imports is essentially contained in one sentence: “Netherlands – Eligible to export raw veal products intended for intact use only.”

But the lack of specificity and concrete rules and penalties has led to large quantities of Dutch veal being turned into ground product and sold on the U.S. market, industry officials said.

U.S. producers continue to demand that FSIS conduct massive recalls to get the ground product off the market, but government sources tell Agri-Pulse that’s not going to happen.

Tony Catelli, president of Catelli Brothers Inc., a New Jersey-based veal producing-company, said he won’t be satisfied with tighter restrictions from FSIS.

“How do you not go after meat that was sent out in violation of the rules?” Catelli said. “That’s crazy.”

FSIS is reacting to the complaints, though. The agency is working on a revised regulation that spells out the types of Dutch veal products that can be sold in the U.S. The new rules, one source said, will be very specific in that only primal and sub-primal cuts from the Netherlands will be allowed to be sold in the U.S. When there is left-over trim – and there usually is – it cannot be used to make ground veal products. Instead, it will have to be sold as cooked product, which fetches a far cheaper price on the market, or destroyed.

Dale Bakke, president of the American Veal Association (AVA), said his group would welcome a tightening of restrictions on Dutch veal.

Ground veal from leftover trim is not a high-value product when compared to cutlets or other sub-primals, but it still brings in a lot of money, and without it, the meat has less total value.

Because of restrictions on Dutch imports, U.S. processors should not be allowed to make ground product as they could do if they purchased domestic product, Bakke said.

“That’s a significant cost that can add to Dutch product if you have to throw that (trim) out or are forced to cook it,” Bakke said in an interview. Meatballs from ground veal are especially delicious, Bakke said, but processors shouldn’t be making them out of Dutch product.

Of course, U.S. veal producers would rather that the U.S. had never lifted its ban on beef and veal from the Netherlands, imposed in 1997 after the discovery of mad cow disease in Dutch herds. Bakke says the industry estimates that hundreds of thousands of pounds of Dutch veal have already flowed into the U.S. since October, when the ban was lifted. But that figure is just a drop in the bucket. Bakke says the Netherlands slaughters about 1.4 million veal calves per year, roughly six times the production in the U.S., according to AVA data.