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Job losses climb after ‘slimy’ reports distort facts
Wilson County NewsApril 11, 2012 3,209 views 7 comments
The economic impact is being calculated after the media hype over lean, finely textured beef. More than 650 individuals have lost jobs in three states, and one company now has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, all linked to the “pink slime” controversy.
As modern technology was used to produce finely textured beef, modern technology -- via the Internet and YouTube -- has contributed to the hype. The investigative reports have the meat industry feeling the heat and have led national and state leaders to join forces to downplay the situation.
Beef Products Inc. has posted a video, “Jamie Oliver Mischaracterizes Lean Beef” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTXhaud1HOw) to separate science from “entertainment.” As of April 5, the Beef Products video had 7,595 hits, while Oliver’s clip had more than a quarter of a million hits.
The three-minute video by Beef Products Inc. counters the household ammonia that Oliver pours on the meat and his use of a washing machine to illustrate his perception of how lean, finely textured beef is produced.
Among those addressing the issue are Dr. Gary Acuff, director of food safety and food microbiologist at Texas A&M University; Jim Dickson, professor of animal science from Iowa State University; and Dr. David Theno, a food microbiologist and animal science expert and one of the Nation’s Restaurant News’ “Top 50 players” for 1997 for his leadership in food service safety procedures.
Ammonium hydroxide, photo
One of the points raised in the continued debate on lean, finely textured beef is the use of a very small amount of ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria.
According to the Food Insight website, “both ammonia and ammonium hydroxide are very common compounds, found naturally in the environment (in air, water, and soil) and in all plants and animals, including humans.”
Since 1974, the Food and Drug Administration has affirmed ammonium hydroxide as “generally recognized as safe.”
Even the World Health Organization has listed the product as safe in “accordance with good manufacturing practices.” It is used in the production of dairy products, confections, fruits and vegetables, baked goods, breakfast cereals, eggs, fish, beverages (sports drinks and beer), and meats.
Only food-grade ammonium hydroxide is used in lean, finely textured beef, not household ammonia as demonstrated by Oliver in his video.
Even the photos being used to illustrate the debate by certain media outlets also are misleading. The website, meatsafety.org, has included a photo clarification for lean, finely textured beef after grinding and freezing.
In support of science-based process
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (District 28) provided the following statement to the Wilson County News regarding the process of lean, finely textured beef.
“The USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] is tasked with determining which foods are safe for consumption, and textured beef (commonly referred to as pink slime) was tested and found safe in 2001,” Cuellar said April 5. “Since that time, there have been no cases of food-borne illnesses due to consumption of the product. I believe all Americans have a right to know what they are consuming, and I encourage them to get informed about the products they consume.”
One such person to get involved is Nancy Donley, a woman who lost her son to E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground meat in 1993. Donley, who has served on the National Advisory Board for Meat and Poultry Inspection, has visited Beef Products Inc. and supports the safety of this product and has written in support of lean, finely textured beef. (See “Donley op-ed” for excerpts of the opinion written.)
While Texas Gov. Rick Perry and others visited the Beef Products plant, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has called for a “congressional investigation into how what he called ‘a smear campaign’ against the meat product commonly called ‘pink slime’ got started,” according to an April 3 Associated Press report.
Prior to this announcement, AFA, a ground beef processor, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to an April 2 Reuters report.
AFA, based in Pennsylvania, has plants in five other states, including Texas, employing about 850 full-time employees.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President J.D. Alexander echoed other official comments.
“We have the safest beef supply in the world, but that didn’t stop the race for ratings and the misinformation overload scaring consumers and throwing the country into absolute chaos,” Alexander said. “This started out as yet another careless and irresponsible distortion of the facts that spiraled into real jobs and real families in already struggling economies being thrown aside.”
Alexander added, “Irresponsible attacks will ultimately result in a domino effect from farm to fork.”
Nancy Donley, a mother who lost her son to E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground meat in 1993, wrote in support of lean, finely textured beef on March 17; this has been posted on the Foods Safety News website.
“... It is critically important for meat and poultry companies to put into place prevention strategies and technologies to ensure that contaminated meat doesn’t make its way into the marketplace. ... That’s why we need to support innovations and advances that enhance food safety. ...
“I personally visited their plant and the categorization of calling this product ‘pink slime’ is completely false and incendiary. Consumers need to understand that this product is meat, period, and the use of ammonia hydroxide in minute amounts during processing improves the safety of the product.”
This campaign will cause companies to “cease innovations for developing better food safety technologies and strategies,” Donley said.
Your Opinions and Comments
April 12, 2012 5:11pm
The Marcelina Muse
Dry Tank, TX
April 12, 2012 2:50pm
The Marcelina Muse
Dry Tank, TX
April 12, 2012 10:23am
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