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BPI Sues to Keep Ammonia Beef Records Private

The ammonia beef saga has taken an interesting twist.

Right before the New York Times published an article questioning the pervasive use of ammonia in beef processing, lawyers at Marler Clark, LLP, a food safety litigation firm based in Seattle, sent a formal request to Iowa State University seeking public records related to the research a University professor did on the safety of ammoniated beef. Beef Products Inc. (BPI), the company that pioneered the ammonia processing technique, has since filed a suit seeking a court order against the university to prevent public records from being released.

bpi-lawsuit.jpgAccording to The Times, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and BPI relied on research from an Iowa State professor to show that the process was effective in killing E. coli and other dangerous pathogens.

“[USDA officials] decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted [BPI],” reported The Times’ Michael Moss. “Beef Products already had one study showing its treatment would do that; another company-sponsored study by an Iowa State University professor that was published in a professional journal seconded that finding.”

“Frankly, I thought the public should know what BPI, the USDA/FSIS, and the beef industry were relying on to serve us the ammonia ‘fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil’,” Bill Marler, managing partner at Marler Clark, said on his blog last week. “I would have assumed BPI, the USDA, and the beef industry would feel the same way. Well, BPI did not.”

Denis Stearns, also a partner at Marler Clark, was likewise critical of BPI’s petition for injunction.

“BPI’s attempt to stop the disclosure of public records is as unsurprising as it is questionable,” said Stearns.

“The records that we–and several news organizations–sought, all involve research that supposedly confirmed the safety of ammonia-treated beef trimming, research that was published in a widely disseminated article, and that was partly-funded by the state of Iowa and the USDA,” said Stearns.

BPI’s complaint states that all the work performed by the Iowa State professor, referred to as an “independent contractor,” including “testing, test results, evaluation, assessment, and/or analysis thereof, is proprietary, confidential, constitutes valuable trade secrets of BPI pursuant to law, and any records or documents created as a result thereof are the property of BPI,” and not the university.

BPI asserts that the disclosure of such information would “cause irreparable injury” to the company.

Stearns said BPI’s claim that every single page of the over 1,650 page research document contained confidential trade secrets was “pretty laughable.”

According to Stearns, BPI’s action is unforunate, “The University is now stuck between properly responding to our records request and the threat of a court-ordered injunction.  That leaves it to us to fight on behalf of the public’s right to know.

“Marler Clark has told Iowa State that it would like to uphold its request for the research documents. The firm sent a letter to the university requesting additional information on the documents last week and is waiting for a response.”

© Food Safety News
  • jmunsell

    Folks, we must remember that current meat inspection centers around deregulation of the industry, called HACCP. Prior to HACCP’s advent, USDA/FSIS promised that under HACCP, the USDA would no longer police the plants, would implement a “Hands Off” role in meat inspection, and would disband the agency’s previous command and control authority. Therefore, any attempt by the consuming public to obtain access to meat companies’ production records, as well as scientific reports authored by Iowa State, constitute inappropriate (perhaps illegal) intrusion into USDA’s new “SCIENCE BASED” meat non-inspection system. The ultimate enemy facing public health here is not E.coli, Salmonella, or ammoniated meat! The ultimate enemy of public health is USDA-Style HACCP, which insulates the big slaughter plants from accountability, allows USDA to relax in a comfortable semi-retirement role at the largest plants, and constructs artificial restraints which limit the public’s intrusion into and knowledge of details of questionable activities (such as ammoniated meat) which are now allowed to exist. Not only is USDA-Style HACCP a Hoax, but it continually imperils consumers, while allowing the largest slaughter entities to operate in the absence of meaningful government oversight……..all in the name of science. John Munsell

  • John Munsell

    Folks, we must remember that current meat inspection centers around deregulation of the industry, called HACCP. Prior to HACCP’s advent, USDA/FSIS promised that under HACCP, the USDA would no longer police the plants, would implement a “Hands Off” role in meat inspection, and would disband the agency’s previous command and control authority. Therefore, any attempt by the consuming public to obtain access to meat companies’ production records, as well as scientific reports authored by Iowa State, constitute inappropriate (perhaps illegal) intrusion into USDA’s new “SCIENCE BASED” meat non-inspection system. The ultimate enemy facing public health here is not E.coli, Salmonella, or ammoniated meat! The ultimate enemy of public health is USDA-Style HACCP, which insulates the big slaughter plants from accountability, allows USDA to relax in a comfortable semi-retirement role at the largest plants, and constructs artificial restraints which limit the public’s intrusion into and knowledge of details of questionable activities (such as ammoniated meat) which are now allowed to exist. Not only is USDA-Style HACCP a Hoax, but it continually imperils consumers, while allowing the largest slaughter entities to operate in the absence of meaningful government oversight……..all in the name of science. John Munsell

  • Timothy

    Change starts with every consumer. Let’s try and make smarter decisions folks and by where we put our money these companies die on the vine.

  • Allen Rigby

    Hey Jaime- how abouy getting your facts straight and actually doing a realistic demonstration? Give BPI a little bit of credit for at least doing something instead of all the big packers that do nothing to fight E:Coli 0157:h7!And as far as the trim that BPI uses being inedible product, that’s not right. This trim has been around forever,it just hasn’t been
    treated by anyone until BPI started their procedure. Maybe you and Anthony Bordaine can afford to only buy burger made with whole muscle cuts,most people can’t. Macdonald’s food stinks
    anyway.You should see the “Beef Tissue” product that they also use in their burger. It looks like something that has already beeneaten and came out the other end. Jaime, I used to like your shows, won’t ever watch again now.