Pink Slime Controversy Shows Need for Meat Industry Whistleblower Protections

ground_beef_attPhoto via flickr user danieljordahlMedia coverage and public concerns regarding "pink slime" – ammoniated beef trimmings produced by Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) – have not let up since last week's announcement that the USDA plans to purchase seven million pounds of BPI's questionable product for the national school lunch program.

In one week's time, a Change.org petition calling on the USDA to stop using pink slime in school food has reached more than 200,000 signatures.

On top of that, Maine Representative Chellie Pingree and New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez have both come out against serving the ammoniated beef product in school lunches, sending separate letters to USDA Secretary Vilsack.

Also last week, two former USDA microbiologists/whistleblowers came forward to ABC News, exposing that BPI pink slime is present in 70% of the nation’s ground beef in supermarkets.

All these pink slime concerns further vindicate GAP client Kit Foshee, the former BPI employee-turned-whistleblower who raised concerns years ago, risking his livelihood in the process. He told GAP that he was fired for refusing to participate in his company's alleged knowing misrepresentation of microbial data to USDA and alleged false claims made to customers about the product's safety.

Public health advocate and food writer Michele Simon recaps Foshee's presentation at our FIC conference last year in Washington, D.C. where he shared the hardships he's had to face since blowing the whistle.

Foshee's case, and the fact that other whistleblowers have come forward with pink slime concerns, reinforces the need to better protect industry insiders who expose food safety threats and other industry wrongdoing. Unlike FDA's whistleblower provision (under the Food Safety Modernization Act), adequate legal safeguards do not exist for individuals reporting USDA violations – which cover the meat and poultry industries.

FIC Director Amanda Hitt states, "Meat industry whistleblowers like Kit Foshee should not have to face retaliation for simply doing the right thing in an attempt to protect public health."

Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

 

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