"Pink slime" label forces beef plant closures

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The top U.S. producer of ammonia-treated beef that critics called "pink slime" said on Monday it will close three of its four plants after sales dropped and did not recover following recent attacks on the product.

Beef Products Inc (BPI) will close plants on May 25 in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa. Its South Sioux City, Nebraska, plant will continue to operate at a reduced capacity.

More than 650 people will lose their jobs when the plants close, the South Dakota-based company said.

"While we had hoped to be able to resume operation at those plants, that is not going to be possible in the immediate future and the temporary suspension of operations will in fact result in the elimination of those jobs effective May 25, 2012," the company said in a statement.

In March, public outcry erupted over the filler for ground beef, which is made from fatty trimmings that are more susceptible to contamination than other cuts of beef. The trimmings are therefore sprayed with ammonia - more often associated with cleaning products - to remove pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli.

Sales dropped when consumers became aware of the common practice in the industry, despite U.S. Agriculture Department and industry experts saying the beef was safe to eat.

In late March, BPI suspended production at the three plants for 60 days. At that time, BPI spokesman Rich Jochum had said the closure could become permanent.

"This is a direct reaction to all the misinformation about our lean beef," Jochum said then.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad on Monday called the closings a "sad day for the state of Iowa."

"The fact that a false, misleading smear campaign can destroy a company's reputation overnight should disturb us all," Branstad said in a statement.

The "pink slime" controversy also hurt beef sales at Tyson Foods Inc, the company said when it reported quarterly earnings on Monday.

Two of the biggest U.S. supermarket operators, Safeway Inc and Supervalu Inc had said they would stop buying the ammonia-treated beef. Grocery sellers Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Kroger Co also dropped it.

AFA Foods, one of the largest ground beef processors in the United States, filed for bankruptcy in early April, citing the uproar over pink slime.



Comments (9) Leave a comment 

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John Nalivka    
Vale, Oregon  |  May, 08, 2012 at 09:14 AM

Wake Up America!

Chuck Lacy    
Vermont  |  May, 08, 2012 at 10:21 AM

If the producers and retailers had accurately labelled the product it would not have been given the moniker "pink slime". From the beginning it should have been labelled "ammonia treated, heated, and frozen beef trimmings". And ground beef with the additive should not have been called "100% fresh ground beef", because that was untrue. Truthful labeling from the beginning would have avoided the whole problem.

Doug    
Nebraska  |  May, 08, 2012 at 11:20 AM

Correct, and the tennis shoes our children wear should state something to the effect, "Made from near-slave labor conditions in a third world country." Same principle. A perfectly fine, approved product sold and consumed every day.

jayhawk    
May, 08, 2012 at 12:49 PM

To Chuck: Actually Doug has a great point. It might not be a fair comparison, but a small tag indicating this product is from (insert human exploitation here) is not a bad idea at all.

jrmartin    
Greensboro  |  May, 08, 2012 at 02:09 PM

The junk is so good it has to be treated with ammonia! It is grisle and other junk that used to be classified as "offal" because it is awful. Was either thrown away or put into animal food.

Rick Machen    
Texas  |  May, 08, 2012 at 03:31 PM

"People wrap themselves in their beliefs, sometimes so tightly that not even the truth can set them free." "Starting down the road where belief in magic replaces science and evidence will eventually take you to a place you do not want to be." Michael Specter, The Danger of Science Denial as heard on TED.com So untrue and misleading that Bob would continue to comment that lean finely textured beef is "sprayed with ammonia" when it is actually exposed to a puff of ammonia gas. Same food safety intervention process is used in the making of chocolate, breads and other pastries. The industry will now indicate on the label that BEEF has been added to BEEF. I hope those responsible for the loss of 650 jobs and the demise of a company with an impeccable food safety record are proud of their efforts.

Rick Machen    
Texas  |  May, 08, 2012 at 03:31 PM

"People wrap themselves in their beliefs, sometimes so tightly that not even the truth can set them free." "Starting down the road where belief in magic replaces science and evidence will eventually take you to a place you do not want to be." Michael Specter, The Danger of Science Denial as heard on TED.com So untrue and misleading that Bob would continue to comment that lean finely textured beef is "sprayed with ammonia" when it is actually exposed to a puff of ammonia gas. Same food safety intervention process is used in the making of chocolate, breads and other pastries. The industry will now indicate on the label that BEEF has been added to BEEF. I hope those responsible for the loss of 650 jobs and the demise of a company with an impeccable food safety record are proud of their efforts.

Rick Machen    
Texas  |  May, 08, 2012 at 03:39 PM

"People wrap themselves in their beliefs, sometimes so tightly that not even the truth can set them free." "Starting down the road where belief in magic replaces science and evidence will eventually take you to a place you do not want to be." Michael Specter, The Danger of Science Denial as heard on TED.com So untrue and misleading that Bob would continue to comment that lean finely textured beef is "sprayed with ammonia" when it is actually exposed to a puff of ammonia gas. Same food safety intervention process is used in the making of chocolate, breads and other pastries. The industry will now indicate on the label that BEEF has been added to BEEF. I hope those responsible for the loss of 650 jobs and the demise of a company with an impeccable food safety record are proud of their efforts.


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