Thursday, April 11, 2013

More on Pink Slime

Food Safety News has a terrific article on the debates which were going on at the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service during the explosion over the inclusion of "lean finely textured beef," or "pink slime" as it was more commonly known, in ground beef. From the article:
When consumer outrage over LFTB went viral last spring many federal food safety officials had never heard of the product.
“Do you know anything about this?” wrote one FSIS meat inspector to a colleague March 3, in response to a consumer inquiry. “I checked USDA’s homepage and there is nothing about it there.”
On March 6, after reading The Daily’s story on USDA’s use of LFTB in the national school lunch program, Bettina Siegel, a mother of two who writes a blog about school food, launched a petition on to ban the product from the program. The next day, ABC World News was on the story, reporting that 70 percent of U.S. ground beef contained LFTB. Within a matter of days, Siegel’s petition had over 250,000 signatures, and had garnered national attention.
Some FSIS officials were frustrated that they didn’t find out about the widely used product from the agency.
“The thing that gets me is why do we learn about products like this through the news media and not from the agency?” wrote another meat inspector March 12.
An agency veterinarian in New York said, “I was totally unaware of the process, but I am glad that I have access to the resources to learn about it and then pass along my knowledge to family and friends.”
School administrators also seemed to be unaware that LFTB was in products being served to students, according to the emails.
“This is disgusting,” wrote John Overcash, the Food Service Director for Littleton Public Schools in Massachusetts, referring to Siegel’s petition. “The article did mention that McDonalds has stopped using ground beef that contains pink slime. Be interested to know if the ground beef produced at a grocery store could or does contain this pink slime. I don’t buy commercially premade burgers or the tubes of ground beef often sold in grocery stores any way.”
Sarah Klein, a food safety attorney at the Center for Science in the Public Interest told Food Safety News she believes the LFTB fiasco raised transparency concerns.
“The troubling part of the entire pink slime fiasco– which we believe is unsavory, but generally not unsafe– is that no one outside the industry seemed to know what was going into burgers; not the consumers who were buying them or the agency that regulates them,” said Klein in an email. “That’s the truly unsavory part of this, and the part that is worrisome for public health. If the agency who is tasked with overseeing the safety of beef products doesn’t know what’s going in to those products, how can consumers have confidence in their food?”
" If the agency who is tasked with overseeing the safety of beef products doesn't know what's going  in to those products, how can consumers have confidence in their food?" Doesn't that just sum up the industrial food system?

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