Decision by McDonald's, Burger King & Taco Bell May Prompt Others to Follow Suit
Whistleblower Questioned Practices by Beef Products, Inc. Years Ago
In the waning days of 2011, fast-food giants McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell announced they will no longer use a controversial beef product produced by food behemoth Beef Products Inc. (BPI). At one time, the ammoniated beef product – beef trimmings known in the industry as 'pink slime' – could be found in approximately 80 percent of the hamburgers consumed in the United States, including those served at fast-food restaurants and through the national school lunch program. While some media outlets raised public awareness regarding potential dangers associated with the product, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) also recognizes the role of the BPI whistleblower who reported the company's practices.
Kit Foshee is a former Corporate Quality Assurance Manager at BPI, the nation's leading producer of "lean boneless beef." He says he was terminated for refusing to participate in his company's allegedly knowing misrepresentation of microbial data to the USDA and allegedly false claims made to customers about the product's safety.
Stated Foshee, "I'm pleased that these companies have taken steps to discontinue the use of this product. However, I believe that 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."
After Foshee contacted GAP, Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) Director Amanda Hitt authored a widely publicized op-ed criticizing BPI's inflated claims that its process of "ammoniating" beef effectively removed all dangerous pathogens from hamburgers. Hitt's article also explained the failings of the still-current USDA/FDA labeling guidelines.
After Hitt's op-ed appeared in several newspapers, major media outlets contacted Foshee – including The New York Times, which published two front-page articles based in part on Foshee's firsthand disclosures. Since 2007, GAP has continued to support Foshee. He appeared in GAP's 2010 live special Anyone Can Whistle, as well as the 2011 FIC symposium, and he will speak at an upcoming stop on our American Whistleblower Tour.
Stated Hitt on the recent development: "There are numerous potentially dangerous substances in food that the industry hides. Food whistleblowers need to be afforded the right to tell the truth without fear of reprisal."
Over the course of his ten years of employment with BPI, Foshee alleges that the corporation misrepresented microbial data to USDA, and made false claims to its processor customers. At the time, BPI asserted that mixing a small amount of its treated beef into the retailer's own ground beef product would effectively eliminate deadly pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7.
Foshee provided GAP with scientific documentation that, according to Foshee, established that BPI misrepresented the microbial reduction impact of its ammoniation process.
Foshee examined the scientific studies that BPI touted as supporting its claims for its ammoniation process. He concluded that blending the BPI product with other ground beef would not have any statistically significant microbial reduction effect. Consequently, he refused to tell BPI processor customers that it would. Foshee believes that this refusal to support BPI's claim was the reason for his termination in 2001.
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, DC.