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In Defense of Food Safety Leadership

My only child, Alex, died from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) caused by eating E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef back in 1993 when he was only 6 years old. It was the most horrendous experience possible.

His first symptoms were severe abdominal cramping and bowel movements that consisted strictly of blood and mucus. Alex suffered terribly as his organs shut down one by one. At one point one of his lungs collapsed, requiring bedside surgery. His brain swelled so horribly that shunts were drilled into his head in an effort to relieve the pressure, but to no avail.

My brave little boy’s last words to me before slipping into a coma were, “Don’t cry, Mommy” as I couldn’t stop the tears from silently flowing. His last gesture to his dad was to blow him a kiss. I was with him when he suffered a grand mal seizure and was put on a ventilator. My little boy, my only child, was dead.

Alex had wanted to be a paramedic when he grew up so that he “could help others” — his words. So when he died we hoped to be able to donate his organs so that he could fulfill that wish of helping others, but his organs were unsalvageable because of the damage caused by the E. coli toxins.

There was no cure for this awful disease then and there still isn’t today. Doctors can only hope to support bodily systems until the toxins pass through. It is for this reason that it is critically important for meat and poultry companies to put into place prevention strategies and technologies to ensure that contaminated meat doesn’t make its way into the marketplace.  That’s why we need to support innovations and advances that enhance food safety.

After Alex’s death, I felt compelled — really more like obligated — to fulfill his wish of helping and protecting other consumers by being his voice and working with federal regulating agencies and with companies to see to it that we did a better job as a country in generating a safer food supply. In the process, I have visited numerous meat and poultry plants, have provided input on public policies and food safety laws, and have served on the National Advisory Board for Meat and Poultry Inspection.

One of the many plants I visited was Beef Products, Inc. I got to know the owners, Eldon and Regina Roth, and was impressed by their complete commitment to the safety and wholesomeness of the meat products they produced. I was also impressed by the food safety culture they instilled throughout their company. We shed tears together over what happened to Alex and realized how we share the common goal of preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. Ever since that moment, BPI has generously supported STOP and has never asked for anything in return.

That said, one point that needs to be perfectly clear is this:  After what I personally experienced watching my son suffer and die, I am very skeptical and cynical about for-profit meat companies and their professed commitment to food safety. Not all companies “walk their talk.” BPI does.

There has been a lot of misinformation swirling around the Internet and on TV about lean beef trim produced by Beef Products, Inc.  As I stated earlier, I have personally visited their plant and the categorization of calling their product “pink slime” is completely false and incendiary.  Consumers need to understand that this product is meat, period, and that the use of ammonia hydroxide in minute amounts during processing improves the safety of the product and is routinely used throughout the food industry. There are many types of interventions including food-grade antimicrobial sprays which are used on all manner of foods.  Some of these things may sound icky and gross, especially when inaccurately portrayed.  These interventions are necessary in ridding meat of deadly pathogens and are required to prove they pose no threats to consumers. Companies would be prohibited by the USDA and FDA to use substances that could be harmful in human consumption.

I am very concerned that mis-categorization campaigns such as this “pink slime” campaign will cause well-intentioned companies such as BPI to cease innovations for developing better food safety technologies and strategies. Why try to do something better only to get set up as a target?  If this does in fact happen, and promising technologies get thwarted, we, the American public, will be the losers.  And tragedies like Alex will continue to go on and on and on.

——————————–

STOP Foodborne Illness is a national non profit, public health organization dedicated to preventing foodborne illness and death from foodborne pathogens by:

- Advocating for sound public policy

- Building public awareness

- Assisting those impacted by foodborne illness

————————

While STOP Foodborne illness does not endorse specific companies or technologies, we applaud those that foster innovation for better processes that lead to safer foods.

——————–

Nancy Donley is STOP Foodborne Illness president and spokeswoman.

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.johnmunsell.com jmunsell

    Kudos to Nancy Donley, who not only has paid THE ultimate price in order to become a food safety advocate, but also for her courage to speak out against ill-intended opponents of valuable food safety interventions.
    Nancy’s endorsement is much more valuable than what we in the industry can provide. We must turn a profit to survive, she must turn some mindsets for public health to survive.
    John Munsell

  • Joan Bradley

    My heart goes out to you. This should NOT be happening in this time and in this place. Thank you for a very enlightening piece re using meat parts ( mis-named “pink slime,” an adolescent phrase if ever there was). The public needs to be educated in as simple a manner as possible regarding its food. Unfortunately, this will be difficult — even I have been confused about all this although I consider myself an intelligent and inquiring person regarding nutrition and food. When the media (especially TV) use catch-phrases and deleted information in their reports, they spread ignorance irresponsibly. What’s the answer? Probably gaining the public advocacy of celebrities, who, unfortunately, seem to have the public’s attention more than any other source. Again, a great piece.

  • Transparency

    How much has BPI donated to STOP and do you think it impacts your opinion?

  • puzzled

    Exciting to be “skeptical and cynical of for-profit meat companies”, very stylish indeed. Maybe you all should purchase only from non-profit meat companies? I mean, just follow your own heart-felt beliefs to their logical conclusion. If there were non-profit meat companies who would run them and how safe could they be?

  • PB

    Transparency,
    I generally abhor personal attacks so I will just say I feel sorry for you if you believe that someone who has gone through what Nancy did, would sell out. I can not imagine living in that dark a world.
    Nancy,
    Thanks for your efforts.

  • http://www.marlerblog.com bill marler

    Setting the “Pink Slime” dramatics aside for a moment – I have not eaten a hamburger since 1993 – BPI needs to be recognized for its early, along with Costco and Earthbound Farms, testing for non-O157:H7 STECs. In my opinion, had BPI not stepped up to do this testing, FSIS would likely have delayed the naming of an additional six pathogenic E. colis (“The Big Six”) as adulterants. That has made our beef supply safer. We all seem to like black and white arguments, or putting people into good and bad camps. Sometimes things are just not that simple.
    As for transparency, I trust Nancy and the people at STOP. I have seen Nancy stand up for all of us against food companies for 20 years. How much or how little BPI, or others (I have given much over the years) have given to STOP would not make a difference in what STOP or Nancy do.

  • nhuehnergarth

    Nancy,
    My heart goes out to you on the loss of your child to E.coli. No family should have to suffer the way that you have suffered. I admire your commitment to ensuring a safer food system for all of us.
    Food system advocates who have been alarmed by the unlabeled inclusion of “pink slime” in our ground beef also support a strong, safe food system. The uproar over “pink slime” is about the consumer’s right to know EXACTLY what is in the food products they buy. It is also about the practice of surreptitiously including low-grade beef scraps, unusually susceptible to pathogens, in ground beef. Can the beef industry ensure that none of these pathogens will ever get through their system? What happens when a new strain of E.coli rears its ugly head? A new strain appeared in Germany this year killing at least 45 people. How will BPI protect us from that strain in LFTB if they are not aware of it or testing for it? As a nation, aren’t we better safe than sorry when it comes to our most precious asset, our children — and if that’s the case, shouldn’t we exclude pink slime from ground beef in the National School Lunch Program?
    Beyond the NSLP, a huge issue is the misrepresentation of ground beef to the consumer. Why did the USDA decide not to label the inclusion of LFTB in supermarket ground beef? My packages say ground chuck or ground sirloin — no mention of the treated beef scraps that clearly are from a different part of the animal. Is that honest? Or is that fraudulent? Why don’t I, the consumer, get to make the choice for my family?
    The meat industry is trying to make it sound like the inclusion of pink slime in ground beef somehow makes our entire ground beef supply safer. Yet, the ammonium-hydroxide process used on pink slime just makes safer the highly pathogenic beef scraps used to make the cheap filler. Pink slime added to ground beef does not make the entire ground beef supply any safer.
    Food safety is extraordinarily important and no man, woman or child should die of E.coli in this country. However, that doesn’t mean that fillers should be added to ground beef without the consumer’s knowledge. And it doesn’t mean that adding ammonium-hydroxide treated low grade beef scraps to ground beef makes our ground beef safer.
    Consumers are hopefully waking up to the fact that industry economic concerns often override the consumer’s right to know and the wholesomeness of our food supply. Food safety, overall, is something that all food system advocates keenly support. Pink slime is not.

  • alice west

    No one is questioning Nancy for her dedication to the safe food but lets not confuse “safe” for “good for human consumption”.
    There are various ways to stop pathogens from entering our meat supplies and spraying them with Nitrogen is not what I would consider “good”.
    My heart bleds for the trauma that Nancy has endured, I am a mother also I can empathasize. I think one of the best things we could do for Alex’s memory and the health of all our children is to not feed them what is essentially dog food grade “fillers”.
    There is a very basic question that I ask when choosing foods, “would my grandmother” recognize it. Sorry, no way would my cattle raising grandparents stuff anything with the “fillers” folks are trying to hawk as safe.

  • Mary Ann Milner

    “Transparency”: How much do you think commenting anonymously impacts your opinion?

  • Ryan Burrill

    Nancy’s child died DUE to germ theory and bad, industrial science. Germs are NOT your enemy, including all forms of E. coli.Blaming germs for your illness is like blaming paramedics at the scene of an accident, for the accident!
    Toxins are the problem, you get them from cooked foods (heterocyclic amines, acrylamides, lipid peroxides, all known carcinogens), you get them from your cosmetics, air pollution, X-icides, drugs, alcohol, building materials, furniture, toys, hygeine products, cleaning products, basically your whole industrial world. Your body has an amazing resiliency, but when you are constantly gumming it up with toxins it will start to malfunction. E. coli is going to find someone with a SAD diet as a playground, because it’s job is to help clean up toxins and dead tissue, same as all other microbes. In other words, the responsibility lies on Nancy for her child’s death, though obviously it was unintentional. What’s sad and laughable is that she is now supporting the very industry that is killing us. Ammonium hydroxide in ‘safe quantities’ is an oxy moron. And people who promote it as such are, well, not morons, they’re malevolent. Google ‘Raw paleo diet’ for more reality.

  • http://www.johnmunsell.com John Munsell

    Kudos to Nancy Donley, who not only has paid THE ultimate price in order to become a food safety advocate, but also for her courage to speak out against ill-intended opponents of valuable food safety interventions.
    Nancy’s endorsement is much more valuable than what we in the industry can provide. We must turn a profit to survive, she must turn some mindsets for public health to survive.
    John Munsell

  • http://www.thelunchtray.com Bettina at The Lunch Tray

    I somehow missed the ability to leave comments on FSN or I would have shared my thoughts here this morning, rather than doing so on my own blog, The Lunch Tray (http://bit.ly/xsjaiG)
    Here is the open letter I wrote to Ms. Donley:
    _________
    I’m Bettina Siegel, the person who started the now-infamous pink slime petition. I’m so sorry for your terrible loss (which I already knew of) and I was greatly moved reading your article in Food Safety News this morning in defense of BPI and its product. I would like to speak with you about it further if you’re willing.
    As you may have seen from my demand for a correction from NPR two days ago (http://bit.ly/yfhsan), read partially on the air yesterday, my concern with this product has never been the ammonia hydroxide. What does trouble me is BPI’s use of a raw material which by its very nature is highly pathogenic, such that we all might be endangered in the case of human error (as when BPI’s ammonia system stopped working for sixty seconds in 2009, leading to 26,000+ pounds of infected meat) (http://nyti.ms/56MIYK) or a new strain of E coli — not part of BPI’s admirably advanced testing protocol — emerges (as one did in Germany last summer, killing 345 and sickening 3,700+.)
    I’d very much like to hear your thoughts and – whether we do eventually speak or not — I’m sharing your views with my readers right now as they are an important part of this discussion.
    Bettina Elias Siegel

  • Nancy Huehnergarth

    Nancy,
    My heart goes out to you on the loss of your child to E.coli. No family should have to suffer the way that you have suffered. I admire your commitment to ensuring a safer food system for all of us.
    Food system advocates who have been alarmed by the unlabeled inclusion of “pink slime” in our ground beef also support a strong, safe food system. The uproar over “pink slime” is about the consumer’s right to know EXACTLY what is in the food products they buy. It is also about the practice of surreptitiously including low-grade beef scraps, unusually susceptible to pathogens, in ground beef. Can the beef industry ensure that none of these pathogens will ever get through their system? What happens when a new strain of E.coli rears its ugly head? A new strain appeared in Germany this year killing at least 45 people. How will BPI protect us from that strain in LFTB if they are not aware of it or testing for it? As a nation, aren’t we better safe than sorry when it comes to our most precious asset, our children — and if that’s the case, shouldn’t we exclude pink slime from ground beef in the National School Lunch Program?
    Beyond the NSLP, a huge issue is the misrepresentation of ground beef to the consumer. Why did the USDA decide not to label the inclusion of LFTB in supermarket ground beef? My packages say ground chuck or ground sirloin — no mention of the treated beef scraps that clearly are from a different part of the animal. Is that honest? Or is that fraudulent? Why don’t I, the consumer, get to make the choice for my family?
    The meat industry is trying to make it sound like the inclusion of pink slime in ground beef somehow makes our entire ground beef supply safer. Yet, the ammonium-hydroxide process used on pink slime just makes safer the highly pathogenic beef scraps used to make the cheap filler. Pink slime added to ground beef does not make the entire ground beef supply any safer.
    Food safety is extraordinarily important and no man, woman or child should die of E.coli in this country. However, that doesn’t mean that fillers should be added to ground beef without the consumer’s knowledge. And it doesn’t mean that adding ammonium-hydroxide treated low grade beef scraps to ground beef makes our ground beef safer.
    Consumers are hopefully waking up to the fact that industry economic concerns often override the consumer’s right to know and the wholesomeness of our food supply. Food safety, overall, is something that all food system advocates keenly support. Pink slime is not.

  • Dennis

    Very interesting but missing the point. That being that these contaminations with pathogens are a direct result of our “factory farming” practices of incarcerating cattle in feed lots, stuffing them with unnatural feed (corn.. and soybeans…now genetically modified no less) instead of their natural diet of grass and THEN as they get sick from it, administering antibiotics to keep them from dying from sepsis. Meanwhile, they are forced to wade in their own feces and urine now loaded with E Coli and God knows what else just to crank up the profit margins. There was a time a short while ago when at least they were fed natural silage in a last phase to clean them out but some pseudo scientist in one of our schools of higher “learning” discovered that feeding them plastic scrubby sponges could save EVEN MORE money on silage fees and so they’re not even cleaned out with that any more! Nature made cattle to eat GRASS not GMO corn, soybeans and scrubby sponges!!! But that’s all just too REAL for us Americans, ain’t it?

  • http://eatprayfarm.com Megan

    Dennis,
    What in Heaven’s name are you talking abou? I am a producer, and after searching all over, I still can’t find the slightest evidence that we are feeding cattle “scrubby sponges”. Keep your factless, useless, and senseless opinion to yourself.
    Nancy,
    I commend you on working continously for the STOP program and against food-borne illness.

  • Warren

    Thank you Bettina for precipitating an emotional foodie crapstorm. You are, possibly, a great modern American. You are, certainly, the currently reigning high priestess of empty sensationalism and malicious alarmism. Mere words cannot convey my regard for you.

  • nhuehnergarth

    Warren,
    I don’t think useless comments like yours should be allowed on this site. If you have a different opinion, express it, and let’s have a civilized debate. Attacking a person personally, who has a different opinion than yours, is shallow and cowardly. It adds nothing to the discussion.

  • http://fotosbymeg.blogspot.com Maureen

    Megan, I thought Dennis’ comment was one of the most intelligent and fact-filled responses on here. The meat industry in this country is seriously flawed and no amount of “safe” ammonia hydroxide will fix the problem. Thanks also to Alice West…lets not confuse “safe” with “good for human consumption”…brilliant!

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley

    Nancy, I am also sorry for your loss, and I appreciate the reasons why you’re speaking out—for the same reasons others have spoken out in favor of BPI: wanting to acknowledge the company’s willingness to expand its food testing.
    I don’t think, though, people being concerned about the quality of food that is pink slime/lean beef trim is going to make a difference in the company’s decision to discard its increased food safety testing. Let’s acknowledge the fact that the company’s decision may (likely) have a marketing context to it, which isn’t going to go away because of our expressed concerns.
    I think Bettina has a very good point: any food safety system is only as strong as any one person in the system—and people make mistakes, get lazy, and sometimes managers make decisions they shouldn’t, in order to cut costs.
    This product, however you want to term it, is presumed to be lethal unless treated. I don’t know of anything else in the food system that has this *assumption. No, not even milk is _presumed_ to be lethal if not treated.
    No matter how it’s packaged in PR speak, this stuff is nothing but cheap filler. This isn’t the direction we should be taking for food—not defending what is nothing more than processed waste.
    I’m all for recycling, but I can’t support a food that can kill you if it’s not treated with ammonia. A food that is _likely_ to kill you if it’s not treated with ammonia.
    No, let’s be brutally direct: a food that _will_ kill us, or make us extremely ill, if not treated with ammonia.
    I know we shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia, but I think the entry for “boneless lean beef trimmings” is accurate:
    “Product description: Meaty materials are attached to bones after the limits of mechanical trimming have been reached. To recover these solids, the bones are boiled or pressure cooked to loosen the flesh, then the solids are separated from the bone by centrifuge. The meat solids are further processed by centrifuge which isolates the meat from most of the fat, and ammonia is added to kill germs through chemical sterilization and increased alkalinity.”
    I don’t want to eat this. And this isn’t a direction we want to go. This stuff is like meat Twinkies for zombies.
    And there are other concerns about the use of ammonia:
    “With food safety information readily available to consumers, we have the ability to empower and make decisions that ultimately affect our health, safety, and environment. Consumer health and worker safety are both important components to the conversation on ammonia-treated beef.”
    Food Safety News, January, 2010.
    If BPI wants to sell this product, and companies want to mix this with other meat for hamburgers, and the USDA guarantees that this product won’t harm workers or consumers, fine–but it needs to be labeled so we know what we’re getting.
    *Except pufferfish. Pufferfish is the only other food that comes to mind that is deadly if not processed absolutely correctly.

  • Nancy Huehnergarth

    Warren,
    I don’t think useless comments like yours should be allowed on this site. If you have a different opinion, express it, and let’s have a civilized debate. Attacking a person personally, who has a different opinion than yours, is shallow and cowardly. It adds nothing to the discussion.

  • Ken

    I am I the only one who remembers back in the 90′s (and before) when the USDA did not allow PDCB-Partially Defatted Chpped Beef- as it was called then, in “Hamburger, Ground Beef”? Then supposedly, they changed the process; called it LFTB (Lean Finely Textured Beef); and then started allowing the inclusion of such.

  • http://nmaonline.org Rosemary Mucklow

    History repeats itself!
    It’s hard to fathom that the use of ammonium hydroxide, a technology that has been thoroughly evaluated by regulatory authorities and found to be acceptable for food use, is suddenly under such vicious attack.
    Just a century ago, ammonia refrigeration became part of the food preservation business. It was used to keep meat cold as it traveled over the nation’s railroads. The meat barons of old Chicago led the way, and were thoroughly chastised throughout the country for this “poisonous” way to keep meat cold, versus the former way – ice blocks delivered by horse-driven carts to stores and homes. Some people still call the refrigerator the ice box because the term has endured, although today’s homes and businesses use one of two major types of refrigeration.
    The company that in 1980 pioneered production of a certain kind of boneless lean beef uses ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens. Its goal is to make its product as safe as possible for consumers. It’s no surprise that not one illness has ever been linked to this product. The company researched and tested ammonium hydroxide for years before using it, and the federal government readily approved its use. The company’s innovations have shown how technology works for the benefit of all Americans.
    The U.S. is the land of technological innovation. This occurs in all areas of activity and companies are constantly developing new technologies to enhance Americans’ lifestyle and ensure their comfort and convenience. The U.S. meat industry is appalled at the senseless disparagement of a legitimate, wholesome and safe beef product that is an essential part of the protein supply for Americans.

  • Amelia

    Wow, the outrages claims in the below sting of comments is the most misguided and uninformed I’ve ever come across. To those who claim “pink slime” is somehow toxic, artificial or anything else -perhaps you should take a step back and open your eyes. Open them real wide, because as a beef producer, I will tell you without doubt it is 110% safe for consumption. I eat it, I feed it to my family and will continue to do so. Not one of us is sick or in poor health. My parents who are 82 and 89 also have been consuming your so called death monger “pink slime.” Both are in top physical condition for their age. Millions, upon millions of other people will and can attest to the very same thing. The funniest part in all of this, I guarantee not ONE of you has ever done due diligence outside of blogs, opinion pieces or funded propaganda from the likes of HSUS, PETA and your newest hero Jamie Oliver. i also bet you’ve never thoroughly delved into the studies that demonstrate how monstrous pink slime is. Go ahead, research a little deep than the headline and article itself. read the controls that were used or abandon. Read how they manipulate the data to incite fear and fright. I bet you won’t do it!
    You have been brainwashed beyond any reasonable doubt. Germany, now that’s a laugh riot. You do understand Germany and the United States are 2 different countries. Both with regulations entirely different and vastly separate from one another. People died in China becuase of REAL toxins in milk. Next thing you know, you’ll be using China as an example of what will and can happen here. You people are ridiculous and prove beyond doubt you know very little about the food system in this country.
    And to the vile people that claim this was Nancy’s fault, I hope KARMA comes for you. After losing a child in this manner, do you honestly believe she would support a company that didn’t have your health and well being at heart? Do you honestly think, the death of her son is being used as a means to furter a conspiracy to poison and kill us. Take off your tinfoil hats. I see lightning on the horizon!~

  • Ajoy Daspurkayastha

    DOCTOR IS TO A HOSPITAL SO ALSO A FOOD DOCTOR IS TO A FOOD COMPANY IF YOU WANT TO AVOID BAMKRUPTCY
    YOU CAN NOT RUN A HOSPITAL WITHOUT A DOCTOR SO ALSO YOU CAN NOT RUN A FOOD COMPANY PROFESSIONALLY WITHOUT A FOOD-DOCTOR(QUALIFIED PEOPLE WITH FOOD SCIENCE/FOOD TECHNOLOGY/FOOD SAFETY KNOWLEDGE AT COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY LEVEL) The cop when stop a speeding vehicle first ask his/her driving licence. The food safety cop when inspect/audit an erring food processing establishment never ask if he/she/they is/are qualified enough to become the food safety driver of that erring food processing establishment since nowhere in the Food Safety Enhancement Program(FSEP) or, in the Compliance Verification System(CVS) or, the the Food and Drugs Act of Canada or, in the Meat Inspection Act (in case of Canadian jurisdiction)it is clearly mentioned what should be minimum qualifications required to become the food safety drivers (HACCP Co-ordinator, HACCP Monitor, Food Safety Officer, Safety Quality Food Technician etc.)of a Food/Meat Processing Establishment. You cannot run a hospital without a Doctor. Similarly, you can never run a food processing establishment professionally without a food-doctor or a food safety driver having food science/food technology/food safety with college/university diploma/degree competence. According to me, majorly , food science / meat science illiterates are running the show of food safety in our food/meat processing factories under bizarre food safety culture fine-tuned by the owners of the food/meat processing factories who employ food science/food technology/food safety illiterates without any formal education in the aforesaid field of study merely because they are widely available @ $ 12 per hour basis (you will observe many such in the Canadian job bank advertisement)and thus vilify the very foundation of the morality of the food safety culture of the food/meat processing factories which is highly antagonistic and dangerous from the public health and safety viewpoint of great importance. Food/Meat industry owners never understand the simple fact to run their factories professionally they need competent people who are not available at that cheap price of @$12 per hour. It becomes totally “A penny wise pound foolish policy hastily and allegedly being implemented by majority of the food/meat processing factories especially when the situation of recall becomes very imminant to protect the public health and safety and mostly the erring food/meat establishment in question goes into bankruptcy.(One typical such most recent example : QUOTE , Toronto Star 17th March, 2012 “ E. coli beef recall from bankrupt company expands to include seven months’ worth of products”at Web-ref:http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1148088–e-coli-beef-recall-from-bankrupt-company-expands-to-include-seven-months-worth-of-products)

  • Adriana

    well I’m gonna say only one thing here (beacuse I need to )I’m not gonna eat BPI products and that’s it !

  • mcnugget

    ever eat a chicket mcnugget?
    you just ate white slime!!!
    jamie oliver is an IDIOT!

  • ecofoodologist

    Dear Ms. Donley, I am deeply sorry for your loss and the space it leaves with you. I also appreciate that you work to prevent food contamination. It is important work. We are not however of the same school for this prevention.
    I can’t debate that LFTB is toxic with any legitimacy. And I don’t intend to attack a company that does what we pay corporations to do. But I will never be satisfied that people or animals must eat products that are, by their nature, toxic before being sanitized. The virulent pathogens treated in LFTB are from mammal feces. These particularly virulent pathogens are only prevalent as a result of the connectedness of our food production/distribution system to extreme animal confinement.
    Can’t we produce food that is healthy with a quick wash? The fact is that we can. I recognize that if everyone rejected foods treated this way we would eliminate many jobs. But it is a paradigm/lifestyle worthy of our effort.
    Conversely, we would create many jobs by building a greater need for people committed to growing and delivering clean food that, among other advantages, has minimal contact with feces.
    My suggestion is not hype. My description of managing tough years is absent. My idea for how much animal product we could realistically raise without CAFOs is unclear. My ignorance of how America would compete with other cereal exporters to profit from 9B hungry mouths is not attempted.
    BUT what we have now is a system where people presume they will eat quite well after never having produced anything of value! Some just watch television or surf the web. Some insulate themselves with excellent provisions while planning financial profits. Some exploit immigrants who produce our food for less than a living wage. Probably no one known to you or me risks an opportunity to eat by daily employment that compromises our integrity. The fact is that compromising our integrity pays well. Speaking truth to power carries a much greater risk of loosing ones livelihood.
    Is that a food system that we can be proud of. At the moment it seems sustainable, but I hope not. LFTB may not be toxic, it may even be perfectly safe, but it is one outfall of a system that is ceasing to serve people well and serves corporate interests more. I try to avoid LFTB, and when there is no other option I eat it with resentment… greater resentment for the lack of labeling.
    I recognize that your intimate connection to this product stems from your laudable commitment to safe food. And concede that BPI is, in its way, a leader in that effort. But please turn your awareness to include issues such as clean farms and the elimination of the ever increasing pressure to bring down the price raise profitability of indigestible calories. There is another way. Peace, ef

  • James

    So you blame BPI, which had no cause in the childs death. Family’s crumble as BPI falls apart. Due to a mother that can’t feed her child properly.

  • J. Turbes

    Ms. Donley’s advocacy for food safety resulting from her personal tragedy is understandable. But unfortunately, such enthusiastic advocacy results in much of the feel-good “commemorative” legislation (“Lacey’s Law” for better driver ed. for teens in FL, “Lucy’s Law” in CA to regulate dog groomers, etc.) occurring today. It is a knee-jerk emotional response to individual personal tragedy that is ill-conceived and often legally redundant.
    In fact, no one needs to “earn” the right to advocate for food safety, or for proper content labeling. And misleading campaign names/slogans such as “In Defense of Food Safety” to preserve the status quo and head off justified criticism of the beef industry will do little to restore consumer confidence.
    Like much of the food industry, beef producers for years have fought clear labeling of content, origin, etc. under the guise that “…the consumer will just be confused…”, etc., while their advocates at the USDA have stood by benignly watching. USDA, after all, is not about food safety first; otherwise, they would be the USDFS. They primary objective was and is to further matters of agriculture.
    And as for the slogan, “beef is beef”, well, so are hooves, hides and horns. BPI slipped it’s “FTLB” — comprising what has traditionally been rejected gristle, cartilage, bone bits (some of us still remember that legislative quality downgrade from 20 or so years ago) and occasional red meat — in as a low-cost bulk-up for better retail profit. Had they called it what it was and put it on the label, they would have given the consumer the choice and wouldn’t be where they are now. BPI is paying the price for “dumbing down” labeling.
    As much as the beef industry would like to think it, the consumer will take it on faith when it has “USDA” stamped on it, but only for a time. When they read about the incessant plague of food-borne illnesses in cantaloupe, field lettuce, etc., and the industry’s inability to control it and they’re not stupid forever.
    As for Ms. Donley, I hope she perseveres — and educates herself in the meantime in food pathology so as to avoid becoming an industry shill.