Beef Products Inc. (BPI) is an American meat processing company based in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. Prior to high media visibility of its products, it was a major supplier to fast food chains, groceries and school lunch programs. It had three additional plants, which closed in 2012.
In 2007, after the USDA reviewed BPI's processing technique, the company was exempted from routine testing of hamburger meat.
In 2009, the New York Times reported that as early as 2003, school lunch officials and other customers had complained that the product tasted and smelled like ammonia, after which the company devised a plan to make a less alkaline version. Later on, the USDA determined that at least some of BPI's product was no longer receiving "the full lethality treatment," and the newspaper reported that BPI's products had tested positive for E. coli three times and salmonella 48 times since 2005. This prompted the USDA to revoke the exemption and review the company's practices. However, none of this product made its way in to commerce, was consumed, or resulted in any illnesses.
In July 2011, after widespread coverage of an unrelated E. coli outbreak in Germany linked to sprouts, Beef Products Inc. began voluntarily testing its beef products for six additional strains of E. coli contamination because the FDA had not taken any formal actions for increased safety actions. The testing began at one of its plants, with a planned expansion to the rest of its US plants when the test kit manufacturer could increase its production to meet the demand.
In 2012, after a series of ABC News reports, concern amongst the public led McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart, Safeway, and several other grocery stores to abandon the product. Company officials suspended production at three of its four plants. The United States Department of Agriculture issued a statement supporting the product's safety, and the company launched a public relations offensive with the help of governors Rick Perry, Terry Branstad, and Sam Brownback, who joined ABC News on a tour of the remaining plant.
Beef Products Inc. closed its facilities in Amarillo, Texas; Garden City, Kansas; and Waterloo, Iowa on 25 May 2012. On 13 September 2012, the company announced it would be suing ABC News for $1.2 billion in a defamation lawsuit.
It was a major supplier to McDonald's and Burger King, as well as restaurants and grocery stores, and its products were reportedly used in 75% of the United States' hamburger patties in 2008. The School Lunch Program, another large buyer of Beef Product's goods, used about 5.5 million pounds in 2009.
In 2002, it patented a process that turns materials that had previously gone for pet food or oil into products for human consumption. In this process, beef trimmings are warmed, put through a centrifuge to remove fat, then treated with ammonia to increase pH and kill bacteria.
The product is found as a lean meat source which has been added to ground beef, constituting up to 25 percent of the final product. This process is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.
Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Food Safety Institute for the Consumer Federation of America, and Nancy Donley, president of the industry-funded group Safe Tables Our Priority, are strong backers of this technology-based approach to food safety. Journalists, however, have questioned the safety of meat treated with the process.
- "Engineering a Safe Burger". The Washington Post. June 12, 2008.
- Moss, Michael (December 30, 2009). "Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-02. "The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella."
- Neuman, William (15 July 2011). "Food Companies Act to Protect Consumers From E. Coli Illness". New York Times. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Kesmodel, David (8 May 2012). "Beef Products to Shut Plants Over 'Pink Slime' Fallout". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Feran, Tim (23 Mar. 2012). "Kroger, Giant Eagle won’t sell ‘pink slime’ meat". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Gruley, Brian and Elizabeth Campbell (12 Apr. 2012). "The Sliming of Pink Slime's Creator". Businessweek. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Reilly, Jill (27 Jan. 2012). "Victory for Jamie Oliver in the U.S. as McDonald’s is forced to stop using ‘pink slime’ in its burger recipe". Daily Mail. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Blaney, Betsy (26 Mar. 2012). "'Pink slime' maker halts production at some plants". Associated Press. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "USDA Affirms Safety of Lean Finely Textured Beef Product for Consumers" (xml) (Press release). United States Department of Agriculture. 15 Mar. 2012. Retrieved 1 Aug. 2012.
- Avila, Jim (29 Mar. 2012). "'Dude, It's Beef!': Governors Tour Plant, Reject 'Pink Slime' Label". ABC News. Retrieved 1 Apr. 2012.
- "Meat processor sues ABC News over 'pink slime' reports". USA Today. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
- Leonard, Christopher; Anderson, Mae (1 Jan. 2010). "Consumers back ammonia-treated beef after report". Associated Press. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "‘Pink slime:’ Combo of connective tissue, scraps hidden in your kids’ lunch". Fox News Channel. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
- Levenstein, Harvey (2012). Fear of food : a history of why we worry about what we eat. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 59. ISBN 0226473740.
- "Anatomy of a Burger". New York Times. 4 Oct. 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- "The Burger that Shattered Her Life". New York Times. 3 Oct. 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- Avila, Jim (8 Mar. 2012). "Is Pink Slime in the Beef at Your Grocery Store?". ABC News. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Williams, Carol (28 July 2011). "'Pink slime' in burgers stirs debate". ABC News. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Bob Cesca (4 Jan. 2010). "I'll have a burger and fries with everything -- hold the ammonia". Daily Finance. Retrieved 22 Jan. 2012.