National Consumers League

Times op-ed 'too little, too late'


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By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director
We read with mixed feelings Sunday’s New York Times op-ed ("What if it weren't called pink slime?") by Philip Boffey about the loss of jobs at Beef Products Inc. BPI is the company nearly driven out of business because of unjustified media hype about so-called “pink slime”. NCL was one of the groups Boffey mentioned that came to the defense of  BPI’s product, “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB), not only  because the company has been a leader in food safety but also because LFTB – which uses trimmings previously considered waste or used for tallow only–is both safe and nutritious, as well as lean. While we applaud Boffey  for taking a dispassionate look at the this unfairly maligned product—as well as cooking up hamburgers made with BPI’s product and attesting to their good taste—there’s some irony that he is commenting on “pink slime” in his position as a New York Times writer.  Boffey’s Times colleague, Michael Moss, whom Boffey also mentions, wrote a piece in 2009 that helped to fuel the attack on BPI, a piece full of negative reporting on the company’s use of ammonia to kill e. coli. That along with other media hype about “pink slime”—which without justification suggested it was inedible or unsavory for America’s families – has indeed meant a loss of jobs at BPI—nearly 650 to date—and an ad hominem attack on a safe, low-fat, and tasty beef product.  So Boffey’s wistful reflections on what happened to BPI through media hype and hysteria comes too little and too late. The damage is done, and it’s unclear whether a company with a good safety record that makes a good product will survive. What a shame.