Seems the “pink slime” debacle didn’t end last Spring as it battled the blows of the media, social media included. In fact it was just the beginning of what may be considered THE food fight of 2012. Beef Products Inc. has sued ABC News, along with a few other whistle-blowers, for defamation and is seeking $1.2 billion in damages. Now if you know nothing about the “pink slime” debacle let’s bring you up to speed.
Pink Slime is what Gerald Zernstein, a former USDA microbiologist, called the processed beef in e-mail to his colleagues where he said, “I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef, and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labeling.” According to the New York Times another former USDA microbiologist Carl Custer said he and other scientists were concerned that the department had approved the treated beef for sale without obtaining independent validation of the potential safety risk. Both men are named defendants in the Pink Slime Defamation Case along with Kit Foshee, Diane Sawyer, David Kerley and Jim Aviles.
There is a good side to all of this, education. ABC News had valid concerns that lead to an investigation and just like that the concern spread. The storm erupted early March this year when journalist David Knowles published an article in The Daily that retold the story of “pink slime” from the perspectives of two former USDA scientists Zirnstein and Custer. In the report it told that the USDA had plans to purchase 7 million pounds of LFTB for the national school lunch program. Two days later Jim Aviles of ABC News published this article that BPI held responsible for the backlash of LFBT being called pink slime.
With this spark came a breeze…
It took a concerned mom, and a troubled social media community to fuel that flame and it came in the form of a petition asking the USDA to stop the use of LFTB in ground beef destined for the school lunch program. This petition was victorious when only after 9 days and over 200,000 signatures, the USDA announced that it would offer school districts a choice of beef with or without the filler. Bettina Siegel created this petition and a huge wave to inform people about this issue. She said, “many Americans were learning for the first time about this substance and the fact that it’s in, reportedly, 70% of our ground beef without any sort of labeling for those who wish to avoid it. That’s deeply troubling to a lot of people.”
Beef Products Inc may feel like they got hit with a one two punch but with the help of the USDA they kicked up the dirt on a topic that is a growing concern in America, food labeling and consumer rights to make informed purchasing decisions.
Ammonium hydroxide, first evaluated by the FDA in the 1970s and is used according to current good manufacturing processes based on its status as “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS substance. This is in the US, Canada does not permit this process of pH enhancing. It also does not meet the legal requirements for sale in the UK. If a consumer deems ammonium hydroxide safe in trivial amounts they should have the option of making that informed decision just as a consumer who may have many food sensitivities, allergies or diabetes where these trivial amounts may cause stress on their immune system should also have the choice to avoid the processed meat even if it’s for a higher price or a shorter spoilage period.
So if LFTB has received negative press in the past why point fingers at ABC News? Remember Jamie Oliver’s demonstration on his television show? It was the yucky term “pink slime” that finally took BPI to sue for defamation. They lost orders from fast food giants, they lost all but 3 states opted to order for their school lunch program and 88% of Americans, according to a survey done by Red Robin, were aware of the “pink slime” issue with 30% of those being extremely concerned. This unfortunately for BPI reduced production by 70%.
Not only does ABC look really ugly in this complain but BPI, USDA and FDA have all managed to make toxic chemicals safe or generally recognized as safe, somehow in their magical calculations that are different from other countries that have enough sense to ban or label these products that can be potentially harmful to consumers. Americans have had to filter through tons of misinformation to get to the truths of the pink slime fiasco but out of the ugliness they will rise up more informed and empowered knowing they can make a change when necessary, especially for the kids.
Americans surely should use the momentum of this issue to press labeling for informed decision-making. There is a certain need to properly label and identify potential pathogens in food. More Americans are waking up to the effect of the processed food on their body and they have the right to know, no matter how ugly it may seem there is always two sides to the story.
For an extensive “pink slime” timeline, click here.
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Hunger Shame – Pink Slime|
Maybe Jon Stewart was on to something when he mentioned getting “locally raised grass-fed cattle fresh from family farms and not factories, no pink slime.”