About a year before Lean Finely Textured Beef, or pink slime, would garner national attention — and outrage among consumers on social media — the product’s maker, Beef Product Inc, paid a visit to the White House.
According to visitor logs released by the Obama administration last month, BPI’s CEO Eldon Roth, the company’s lead on food safety Craig Letch, and corporate administrator Rich Jochum had a meeting with the Robin Schepper, executive director of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign in April 2011.
Nancy Donley, the founder of STOP Foodborne Illness, also attended the meeting, which took place in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House
The visit came just days after celebrity chef, and then reality TV personality, Jamie Oliver aired his LFTB stunt on his ABC reality show “Food Revolution” he called the product “inedible” trimmings fit only for “pet food” and put them in a washing machine with ammonia cleaning product to illustrate BPI process. He also repeatedly called the product “shit.” (That was bleeped out.)
Months later, major fast food companies ditched the product from their ground beef.
The Washington Post reported that, in the meeting with East Wing staff, Eldon Roth “argued that one of his products should be promoted for school lunches.”
But the BPI team was actually in town to meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials to discuss the company’s decision to test for non-O157 strains of E. coli, according to company spokesman Rich Jochum
Jochum told Food Safety News the group was in DC specifcally to meet with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service “regarding USDA’s intention to proceed with declaring the Big Six non-O157:H7 STECs as adulterants,” a policy that just went into effect a few weeks ago.
“At that meeting, Ms. Donley was able to personally reiterate her support for USDA making such a declaration and BPI informed USDA of the company’s decision to voluntarily proceed with sampling and testing for the Big Six STECs in the near future,” said Jochum. “It was BPI’s desire in communicating its decision to also show support for USDA making such a declaration and at the same time not take any action that would interfere with USDA proceeding in that manner.”
While they were in town, Marhsal Matz, an attorney at Olson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC, a firm specializing in food, agriculture, and drug law that BPI uses for government relations, suggested that the company meet with the Let’s Move staff.
Jochum said the meeting was to “inform them of BPI’s role in producing lean beef and the how lean beef fit into the objectives of the Let’s Move objective of fighting childhood obesity.”
“Ms. Donley also had the opportunity to introduce herself and Stop Foodborne Illness to the Let’s Move staff as well,” added Jochum.
Matz, a former adviser to the Obama 2008 campaign, is reportedly a longtime acquaintance of Schlepper.
As Food Safety News reported in March, BPI has been a longtime contributor to political candidates in the midwest and at the national level, but almost exclusively to Republicans. In October 2010, the Roths donated $190,000 to state-level PACs in five states set up by presidential candidate Mitt Romney.© Food Safety News