Entries in Pink Slime (3)


BPI Announces Defamation Lawsuit Over 'Pink Slime'

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The company that makes what it calls lean finely textured beef, the food product that critics call "pink slime," has announced a defamation suit against ABC News after reports on the product by ABC and others led to reduced demand.

Media organizations have frequently reported on the product that often was added to ground beef sold in supermarkets and served in restaurants and schools.

"The lawsuit is without merit," said Jeffrey Schneider, Senior Vice President of ABC News, which ran several such reports.  "We will contest it vigorously."

Beef Products Inc., BPI Technology Inc. and Freezing Machines Inc., collectively known as BPI, first publicly indicated on Wednesday its intention to share details of "a major lawsuit regarding defamation of its beef product, lean finely textured beef" on Thursday.

The product, abbreviated as LFTB, is made of beef trimmings that are heated and spritzed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria.  Blending in the product can reduce the price of ground beef.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that the product is safe to eat and reduces the overall fat content of beef products.

In late March, governors from three meat-producing states walked through a BPI plant with reporters and defended LFTB.

"It's beef, but it's leaner beef which is better for you," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said.  "We take this off the market then we end up with a fatter product that's going to cost more and is going to increase the obesity problem in this country."

Then USDA scientist Gerald Zirnstein first coined the term "pink slime" to describe what the industry calls LFTB in an email he sent to USDA colleagues in 2002.  He and former USDA colleague Carl Custer continue to be outspoken critics of LFTB.

After a flurry of news reports earlier this year, several national grocery chains publicly vowed to discontinue selling beef containing the product, joining some other supermarket chains that claimed they never did.

Restaurants, including McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell, had earlier stopped buying it.

In early April, the USDA approved requests by BPI and others that they be allowed to label products containing LFTB.  Given the choice by the USDA, many school districts refused to accept beef with the "pink slime."  Only three states participating in the National School Lunch Program -- Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, all states with BPI facilities -- agreed to order ground beef that might contain the product, according to a June 6 ABC News report.

With demand apparently falling, BPI announced in late March it would temporarily suspend operations at plants in Texas, Kansas and Iowa, but continue to operate one in South Dakota. The company blamed social media and news organizations, specifically ABC News, for what it called a gross misrepresentation of its product and process.

On April 2, AFA Foods, a Pennsylvania-based competitor to BPI, filed for bankruptcy protection, citing reduced demand stemming from the media's coverage of "pink slime."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


BPI Endorses USDA Voluntary Labeling of LFTB or ‘Pink Slime’

Rob Melnychuk/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- BPI, maker of Lean Finely Textured Beef or “pink slime,” as critics call it, is bowing to consumer pressure and endorsing a huge move by the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- the voluntary labeling of LFTB.

The government is telling producers that USDA inspectors will certify labels such as “Contains Lean Finely Textured Beef,”  “Contains Finely Textured Beef,” or “Contains Lean Beef Derived from Beef Trimmings,” and stamp them with USDA approval.

Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch says the government is sending a message to consumers and the meat industry.

“USDA is trying to kind of split the baby,” Lover says. “They don’t require it and offend the industry, but they realize there’s a public relations problem and people are outraged about this.”

BPI, the maker of LFTB, released a statement Tuesday saying it has signed on to the USDA labeling move.

“While ground beef is a single ingredient product (beef) and lean finely textured beef therefore is not required to be listed separately on any label, we believe USDA’s decision to allow companies to voluntarily include information on their label regarding LFTB content will be an important first step in restoring consumer confidence in their ground beef,” the statement said. “Based upon the numerous taste panel studies conducted using BPI’s lean beef and strong consumer preference for ground beef that contains our LFTB, we feel this development will allow more customers to provide options to consumers and pave the way for BPI’s lean beef to reestablish its place in the market.”

The American Meat Institute says the reversal is understandable.

“If you think about everything the company has been subjected to and what I would characterize as, with all due respect, a campaign of misinformation, you can’t blame a company for trying to save itself and make sure that employees don’t lose their jobs,” AMI spokesman Mark Dopp said.

Cargill, one of the nation’s largest ground beef producers Tuesday asked the USDA for permission to give it the option to label its ground beef as containing a similar filler.  At the same time, companies that don't use LFTB have asked permission to label, too, with terms like “excludes finely textured beef” and “made without finely textured beef.”

“This is an excellent outcome in giving consumers a choice,” Bettina Siegel, a blogger at the Lunch Tray website and a mother of two who started a petition calling for full disclosure in ground beef said today. “A good first step, but USDA should not leave labeling voluntary.”

Since the first of the year, McDonalds and other fast food stores have dropped LFTB, the USDA has identified which products contain the filler for school districts, grocery stores have pulled it from shelves, and now -- for the first time -- what is inside the beef will be labeled on the outside.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Dude, It's Beef!': Governors Tour Plant, Reject 'Pink Slime' Label

Hemera/Thinkstock(DAKOTA DUNES, S.D.) -- Governors from three meat-producing states Thursday defended Beef Products Inc., the company that makes lean finely textured beef, which now-former USDA scientists nicknamed "pink slime," after a walk through the company's plant accompanied by ABC News.

"Let's call this product what it is and let 'pink slime' become a term of the past," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said after the tour, after which officials showed off T-shirts with the slogan, "Dude, it's beef!"

Stung by consumer reaction to the process used by BPI, grocery stores pulled beef containing the filler off the shelves and BPI closed three of its four plants for lack of demand. The governors said that the treatment the product received in the media was unfair because it is not only safe, but also nutritious and allows grocers to sell leaner ground beef at a lower cost.

"It's beef, but it's leaner beef, which is better for you," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said. "We take this off the market then we end up with a fatter product that's going to cost more and is going to increase the obesity problem in this country."

ABC News joined Branstad, Perry and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on a tour of the facilities where beef scraps, mostly fat and connective tissue, are processed. The scraps are put through centrifuges to separate the fat and then through pipes, where they are spritzed with ammonia gas before emerging as a pink mix that is then frozen and sent all over the country.

Until recently, the lean finely textured beef, known to critics as "pink slime," was added to America's fast food, school lunches and 70 percent of all ground beef sold at grocery stores.

ABC News was not allowed to ask questions during the tour, but at a news conference later, the governors came under attack.

Branstad, who received $150,000 in campaign contributions in 2010 from the founders of BPI, organized the governors' tour and press conference, but told ABC News that the contribution played no role in his decision to hold the event.

"I always fight for my constituents and I will always fight for what is right," he said.

Nancy Donley, president of Safe Tables Our Priority, an organization dedicated to preventing foodborne illness, lost her 6-year-old son in 1993 from E. coli. Donley warned that doing away with lean finely textured beef will make the meat supply more dangerous.

The Safe Tables website until recently listed BPI as its largest funder, providing more than half the organization's budget. However, the disclosure of BPI's funding recently was removed from the website, with Safe Tables saying the donor now wishes to be anonymous. The relationship was not mentioned at Thursday's news conference.

"No price can be put on my son's head," she said Thursday. "I can't be bought and neither can my organization. We represent the victims."

Also on stage for the news conference was Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, under secretary for food safety at the USDA. Hagen assured the public that the product is safe to eat, but still refused to answer any questions from ABC News after the news conference. ABC News has been asking the USDA for an on-camera interview with ANY official willing to speak on the issue, including Hagen. But the officials declined to speak, claiming a tight schedule.

BPI founder Regina Roth concluded the press conference by inviting the governors to chomp down on BPI-provided burgers complete with the lean finely textured beef they were defending and which the "pink slime" critics want clearly identified on packaging.

"We're going to have some burgers with LFTB in them, so come on in and let's go eat," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio