September 20, 2014

Grassley says USDA, FDA partly to blame for BPI plant closings

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration are partly to blame for the closure of three beef processing factories in Iowa, Texas and Kansas. Beef Products Incorporated announced Monday it would permanently close the plants due to a consumer backlash over the product it calls “lean, finely textured beef,” referred to as “pink slime” in an A.B.C. TV report.

Grassley says the U.S.D.A. and the FDA should have defended the product, but didn’t. Grassley says, “They immediately said hot lunch programs didn’t have to purchase it and so that sent a signal if it wasn’t good enough for the hot lunch program, it wasn’t good enough for this supermarket and that supermarket and they all jumped on board.”

After the U.S.D.A. and FDA’s actions, criticism of the beef product on social media went viral. The actions caused irreversible harm to BPI, Grassley says, and the plants — which were temporarily closed in March — are now closed for good.

“So then you try to make up for that harm and there’s not much that the Department of Agriculture can do, even by having four or five governors join in to save the jobs, it didn’t happen,” Grassley says. “It’s just a crime.”

The BPI factory in Waterloo had 220 employees. The closures of the plants in Kansas and Texas take the total number of jobs lost to 650.

Another BPI plant in South Sioux City, Nebraska, will remain open but production is being cut back. Grassley says, “You would think people would be more interested in human beings and preserving jobs than they would be in animal agriculture, but obviously the people that are against animal agriculture that wanted to create this fraud on ABC are more interested in animals than they are people.”

While Grassley says what’s taken place is a crime, he doesn’t expect any charges to be filed. He says: “It’s all within the freedom of speech of our broadcasters.” The other plants that are being shuttered are in Amarillo, Texas and Garden City, Kansas.