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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

What’s on the School Lunch Menu? Ammoniated Beef!

Food Integrity Campaign | March 6, 2012

Earlier this year, FIC celebrated the fact that major fast food chains pulled BPI’s ammoniated beef trimmings from their menus, vindicating the actions of GAP client and whistleblower Kit Foshee. However, news has come that the USDA is still planning to purchase the controversial product for school lunches, according to The Daily.

Last year, 6.5 percent of the beef USDA purchased for the national school lunch program came from BPI. The partnership looks to continue in the coming months, as the agency aims to purchase 7 million pounds of the company’s ammoniated beef for schools.

How unfortunate that the government persists on turning a blind eye to concerns regarding the use of ammonia in BPI’s ground beef. If McDonald’s can take steps seemingly to address these concerns, why can’t the USDA?

Kit Foshee, who worked at BPI for 10 years, said he was terminated for refusing to participate in his company’s alleged knowing misrepresentation of microbial data to the USDA and alleged false claims made to customers about the product’s safety. For more on his whistleblowing disclosures, visit Foshee’s profile.

It should be enough that one of BPI’s own long-time employees had concerns. But as The Daily asserts, even former USDA employees saw the beef as problematic.

“Scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval,” Zirnstein said.

A baseline study conducted by Zirstein and Custer classified the trimmings as a “high risk product.” Zirnstein says the food inspection service ignored their findings, and commissioned a separate study to assess the safety of BPI’s meat.

Retired Food Safety Inspection Service microbiologist Carl Custer said he didn’t even consider the product meat and that USDA undersecretary JoAnn Smith – who has deep ties in the beef industry, The Daily reports – supposedly pushed the USDA acceptance of the beef trimmings as safe.

The infiltration of meat industry interests in the government is nothing new. But as Foshee states, “more can and should be done to provide better oversight and regulation in the industry, especially in the use of ammonia and the claims such as those made by BPI regarding the safety of this product.”


Sarah Damian is Communications Manager for the Food Integrity Campaign.