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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

‘Pink Slime’ School Choice Shows Importance of Food Industry Whistleblowers

Food Integrity Campaign | March 15, 2012

 Episode Shows Power of Whistleblower Concerns & Need for Meat Industry Whistleblower Protections

(Washington, DC) – The recent media firestorm surrounding “pink slime” – ammoniated beef trimmings produced by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) – has made the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) think twice about serving the controversial product to America’s schoolchildren. Media reports state that the USDA will announce today it is giving schools a choice of ground beef purchases – including one choice for districts to not have this controversial food filler that many food advocates say shouldn’t qualify as “beef.”

There have been multiple whistleblowers regarding this controversial product. Government Accountability Project (GAP) client & former BPI employee-turned-corporate-whistleblower Kit Foshee raised concerns several years ago. Just last week, two more former USDA microbiologists/whistleblowers came forward to comment on the USDA plan to renew “pink slime” products for the national school lunch program, and that the product can be found in 70 percent of supermarket ground beef across the country.

On this latest development, GAP Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) Director Amanda Hitt stated:

“At least schools now have a choice. The USDA is learning that Americans are increasingly demanding transparency when it comes to their food. One effective, simple, and cheap way to achieve better transparency would be to provide food industry workers with strong whistleblower protections. Unfortunately, while employees who raise concerns regarding FDA-regulated product have such protections, as laid out in the Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law last year, employees in the meat and poultry industry, regulated by USDA, are left out in the cold.

“Of course, government employees like USDA and FDA workers need much stronger protections as well, like those in the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act legislation. The whistleblowers that have come forward on this issue recently are former USDA employees, each retired. Had adequate whistleblower protections existed over the last decade, our country may have addressed this issue years ago, and schools could have made an informed choice then.”

Hitt concluded with the disparity in acceptance of “pink slime” between fast-food giants and the federal government:

“Several fast-food companies decided to discontinue their use of ‘pink slime’ months ago, but the USDA is continuing to offer it as a choice to schools. If it’s not good enough for McDonald’s, Burger King or Taco Bell, it shouldn’t be good enough for our kids.”

Contact: Amanda Hitt, FIC Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext 159

Contact: Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137

Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.