Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has taken it upon himself to fight for 'pink slime' maker Beef Products, Inc.'s honor, calling for a congressional investigation into what he labels a "smear campaign" against ammoniated beef (or Lean Finely Trimmed Beef, as the industry calls it). Repeating the sentiments of BPI President Eldon Roth, Branstad (as if he represented the company himself) attacks recent media coverage of 'pink slime' as "misinformation."
No doubt the raised awareness that BPI's leftover beef trimmings are doused with ammonia without consumers knowing has played a gigantic role in fast food chains and grocery stores dropping the product from their shelves, BPI's move to suspend three of its four processing plants, and the USDA giving schools a chance to opt-out of buying 'pink slime.' Now Defender-In-Beef Branstad – who received $150,000 in 2010 from BPI founders – has turned to shooting the messenger.
No 'smear campaign’ of misinformation exists, of course (unless as in ‘smear’ he means spread information often missed). But FIC would like to make things easier for Gov. Branstad if he decides to check out things on his own. So, Mr. Governor, the first thing you should realize is that there have been strong concerns about 'pink slime' for quite some time. In fact, FIC started raising concerns about ammoniated beef, back in 2008, because of BPI whistleblower Kit Foshee.
Let's make this easy for you: Take a look at this interactive timeline FIC put together that highlights Foshee's role since that time:
Shooting the messenger is a common tactic that corrupt bosses use against whistleblowers who reveal truths the public should know about. It's disappointing to see Gov. Branstad doing the same thing by attacking the media.
Even Stephen Colbert says "The Beefstate Governors" who toured BPI's remaining Nebraska plant last week should embrace the term 'pink slime,' because "red meat has got a bad name."
Regarding the spreading of whistleblower and consumer concerns with ammoniated beef (what we’d call transparency), Gov. Branstad asks, "If they get by with this, what other food products are they going to attack next?" to which FIC would respond, deregulated chicken! If you think 'pink slime' is bad, what about potentially contaminated poultry zooming through processing plants at nearly 200 birds per minute with less federal inspectors present?
What Gov. Branstad and other industry proponents need to realize is that the demand for transparency will only continue to increase. Efforts to punish the media and truth-tellers like Kit Foshee are simply attempts to avoid accountability that will only cause further outcry.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.