Congressman Steve King (R-IA) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad are pushing for a congressional probe into what many in the meat industry are calling a “smear campaign” against Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), a formerly obscure component commonly used in ground beef now known to the public as “pink slime.”

King has asked Frank Lucas (R-OK), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee to host a hearing that would bring in witnesses to testify on the media firestorm and consumer backlash over the product, which has led to three plant suspensions and sidelined 650 workers in Texas, Kansas, and Iowa — including some 200 workers in King’s district.

“Witnesses would be under oath and they’re of course obligated by law to tell the truth, those who have been the ones who have perpetrated this smear campaign against one of the stellar companies in the country,” King recently told an Iowa radio station. “I think they’ll have an obligation then to explain themselves why they could not base their allegations on facts and what they’ve done to damage an industry.”

The congressman said he believes the campaign is also an “assault” on meat. “I’d like to look at that further,” he said. “Right now, I’m focused on helping BPI get their brand back and their market share back.”

Tamara Hinton, communications director for the ag committee, told Food Safety News that, though they are monitoring the issue “closely,” a hearing has not been scheduled.

King said he was not considering legislation or any type of “punishment” to address the issue, but is focused on getting the truth out. “Once we get the truth out, then we might look at what we might provide for solutions.”

Branstad.beef_-252x300.jpgBeef Products Inc., the nation’s largest producer of LFTB, recently suspended operations at its plant in Waterloo, IA and the news immediately put Iowa politicians, on both sides of the aisle, into damage control mode.

Last week, Gov.Terry Branstad pulled together a high-profile media event on short notice featuring governors Rick Perry of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas, as well as lieutenant governors from Nebraska and South Dakota and the Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen.

Branstad has also written to all governors and lieutenant governors asking for support and on several occasions called for a congressional investigation into the “slurs” and “lies” coming from LFTB critics.  

Even amid a heated campaign between candidate Christie Vilsack (the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack) and King, the two participated in a joint event last week to show their support for BPI.

According to state campaign finance filings, BPI president and CEO Eldon Roth contributed $152,000 to Gov. Brandstad’s 2010 reelection campaign and according to the Des Moines Register the company is tied to more than half a million in donations to Iowa Republicans over the last decade.

The story has been updated with campaign finance data.

  • Larry and Karen Andrew

    This article and the reaction of politicians who have received major money from BPI sure says a lot about why the ingredient was allowed to be included without consumer knowledge in the first place.
    Eldon Roth bought the right to sneak the stuff into our burgers without us knowing it was there.
    Bill Marler’s recent article regarding the mistakes Roth has and is making by attacking consumers who merely want to make their own choices certainly contrasts how Roth and his bought and paid for politicians are dealing with the problem.

  • AD Higgins

    Dude, it’s Free Speech!

  • SO, the republicans don’t want mandated health care, but governor rick perry tried to mandate a vaccine. now the republicans want to mandate LFTBs aka pink slime? really, is that what this is about now?
    yep, they call this force feeding consumers, what they don’t know, will not hurt them. trust us$
    once again, AMMONIATED BEEF DOES NOT KILL TSE PRION DISEASE, aka mad cow type disease. this is not a slur, this is not a lie.
    i have been asking for a congressional hearing about mad cow disease in the USA for over a decade about the lies about mad cow disease in North America, and what do we get, mandated force feeding consumers by Congress of pink slime or LFTBs? REALLY ? IF that happens, the consumer has lost.
    why did congress not hold a hearing, when for 4 years, children across the Nation were fed the most high risk cattle for mad cow type disease and other deadly pathogens via the USDA AND THE NSLP, they were fed dead stock downer cows. a disease with an incubation period of up to 5 decades. where was the rage then by these same congressmen $ they (usda, industry, congress et al) hide behind lies about the mad cow feed ban that failed from the start, with 10 million pounds of banned blood laced MBM going into commerces as late as one decade post partial and voluntary mad cow feed ban August 1997, (2007), and a failed BSE surveillance system, proven to be so by the OIG and the GAO. cjd is rising in the USA, with a new TSE strains emerging. where is the congressional hearing about that, and the fact that sporadic CJD has now been linked with atypical TSE in animals in North America $
    the usda and the industry have been in bed together long enough, in my opinion. it’s time for the consumer to stand up to this industry. everything that taste so good, with a disease with such a long incubation period, just may not BE SO GOOD.
    bottom line, if the public does not like your product, you cannot force feed the public, not by a few ignorant greedy governors at a photo op stuffing a burger in their mouth, or by a congress that has failed us terribly.
    the more you try to force feed pink slime to the public, the more the public will refuse it, and rightfully so. you can label, give the consumer a choice, and maybe you might find a buyer, or maybe not, that’s the proper thing to do, besides taking it completely off the market.
    Pink slime, also known as lean finely textured beef (LFTB)[2] or boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT),[3] is a beef-based food additive that may be added to ground beef and beef-based processed meats as an inexpensive filler.[4][5] It consists of finely ground beef scraps and connective tissue which have been mechanically removed from the fat[6][7]. The recovered material is processed, heated, and treated with ammonia gas[1] or citric acid to kill E. coli, salmonella, and other bacteria. It is finely ground, compressed into blocks and flash frozen for use as an additive to beef products.[8][9] The term “pink slime” was coined in 2002 by Gerald Zirnstein, who at that time was a microbiologist for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service.[6]
    The additive itself cannot legally be sold directly to consumers, but can constitute up to 15% of ground beef without additional labeling,[8] and can also be added to other meat products such as beef-based processed meats.[8] Prior to the invention of the disinfection process, beef scraps could only be sold as pet food or as an ingredient for cooking oil.[4]
    > > > Ackerman says downed cattle are 50 times more likely to have mad cow disease (also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE) than ambulatory cattle that are suspected of having BSE. Of the 20 confirmed cases of mad cow disease in North America since 1993, at least 16 have involved downer cattle, he said. 95%) downer or dead dairy cattle…
    you can take me to court, you can take me to congress, you can take me to prison or hell and back, i don’t care, i have seen the beast, and it then never leaves you. my mother did everything linda blair did in THE EXORSIST movie, except spin her head 360 degrees on her shoulder. she DID levitate in bed from the myoclonic jerks, where it took three of us to hold her down to keep from hurting herself. it’s here, you can take that to the bank, and i would not even wish this on the stupid Governors at the hamburger eating photo ops $$$ well, i am not sure about that one, i do still have a few in mind, but good things just don’t happen some times. until big ag and the government are divorced once and for all, we will always have these problems $$$
    this is my opinion, base on facts, i think you still have that opition in the USA, i am not sure if the government has mandatede something against free speech yet or not. it would not surprise me though. …
    MOM DOD 12/14/97 hvCJD ”confirmed”
    am i still angry, YOU BETCHA !
    Terry S. Singeltary Sr.

  • Carlo Silvestri

    The only reason that the politicians mentioned are in such an uproar about this is that the loss of pink slime led to the loss of jobs in their state. It shows you where the politician’s heads and hearts are. They don’t give a damn about the public, they don’t want the public to know anything. All they want is money and power and the hell with anyone who disagrees with them. Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Pink Slime, but I won’t eat it and I think people have a right to make that choice not have it forced on them and then have to face a reaction from politicians who suddenly realized that they’ve been supporting something that the public doesn’t want. The hell with them. Get them all out of there!