July 28, 2014

Congressmen weigh in on BPI finely textured beef controversy

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, says he has been talking with state officials about the controversy surrounding the beef product that critics have called “pink slime.” A plant in Waterloo was one of three that have been shut down by Beef Products Incorporated over the controversy.

“You know the biggest issue is that the market is already responding to the allegations that have been brought up in a number of these news reports without a full and thorough conversation about the underlying tradeoffs of food safety that relate to the product that they are making — which is lean finely-textured beef,” Braley says.

The product is made from left over beef trimmings which are spun in a centrifuge and treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. Braley says he has talked with state officials about food-safety experts who can talk about how the product has reduced the “alarming rate of e-coli outbreaks related to hamburger.”

Braley says reducing the e-coli outbreaks is one of the reasons the product was created in the first place. “So my whole point is, it’s time to focus on the facts and give people an honest understanding of the trade offs of having this additive in their meat products,” Braley says.

The congressman says the impact on the workers also has to be considered as he says some 300 workers are now without jobs at the Waterloo plant. Iowa’s three other Congressmen, Republicans Steve King and Tom Latham, and Democrat Leonard Boswell sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, asking that the U.S.D.A. take a more active role in educating the public about the benefits of lean finely textured beef.   BPI letter

Congressman King also released this statement:
“BPI and the lean finely textured beef product it produces have been the victim of a vicious negative media campaign,” said King. “The result has been a misinformed public that’s pressured retailers and the USDA to distance themselves from the company and its product,” said King. “The USDA is uniquely positioned to help educate the public about the facts as they relate to lean finely textured beef. Unfortunately the agency’s handling of this situation thus far has led the public to believe that this product is neither healthy nor safe. These false claims have put jobs and livelihoods at stake. We need Secretary Vilsack and the USDA to take an active role in setting the record straight. “