The ruckus in the media over pink slime has caused such uproar that retailers across the country have dropped pink slime from their stores like a hot pink potato. In a little over a week an online petition on Change.org started by blogger (and mom) Bettina Siegel of the Lunch Tray amassed an astounding 257,682 signatures.
Even more impressive, was a “sign-on” letter circulated in Congress by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine that garnered 41 signatures by members of Congress which takes the USDA to task and urges a complete ban on purchasing pink slime for use in school lunches.
It’s hard to say what rankled people more, that pink glop was fed to kid’s school lunch programs or that something as gross sounding as pink slime could be in food.
Celeb chef Jamie Oliver got in on the action and demonstrated for mortified viewers the recipe for pink slime: poised with a half-gallon of ammonia in one hand and a whisk in the other, he poured the ammonia into a giant clear plastic tub filled with the greasy, gristly gruesome remains of cows (normally destined for pet food) and gave the goop a good stir. I think the word he used to describe it was, “sh*t”.
It wasn’t long after that the media took hold of ‘pink slime’ and ran with it. Who could resist such a headline? The poor guy who coined the phrase, a reluctant whistleblower and former USDA microbiologist cringes a little every time he hears the phrase, only because he never meant for his description of ammoniated beef to go public. Nevertheless, he was just describing what he saw in an e-mail: a greasy, slimy pink blech.
But no one can argue that the tipping point for pink slime was the ABC World News with Diane Sawyer report. The day after the show aired the nation’s largest grocery chain, Kroger, bailed on pink slime, reversing an earlier decision to stand behind pink slime (I just love saying pink slime).
I marvel at the speed and veracity that pink slime captured media attention, the public’s gripping attention and horrified reaction, and retailer’s declaration that they would remove it from their shelves. Never mind that it has been in fast food burgers and kid’s lunches for a coon’s age, this time though, there was a reaction and a result that most public relations media types only dream about.
Meanwhile, lesser known food tragedies without catchy headline-grabbing names get shoved under the media carpet to gather dust. Frustrated, and understandably jealous, parents of another species (alright, it’s pet parents if you must know) wonder why retailers haven’t given them the same attention and do as much for their cause, namely, remove poisonous chicken jerky from store shelves as well.
In an effort to answer that question, I interviewed a food safety expert, who, on the promise of anonymity, agreed to be interviewed*.
Q. What’s all the hullabaloo about, I mean, has pink slime caused any deaths?
A. Nope. Not that we know of, anyway.
Q. What about this chicken jerky I keep hearing about, has it caused any deaths?
A. Oh yeah. Plenty.
Q. How many deaths?
A. No one knows for sure, but so far over 600 complaints have been filed with the FDA.
Q. Does pink slime cause acute renal failure like chicken jerky treats?
A. No! Are you serious?
Q. So let me see if I understand this, the stores got rid of pink slime but they still sell chicken jerky even though it can cause acute renal failure and death?
A. You betcha. Some even die within days of eating it!
Q. How did retailers respond to public outcry over pink slime?
A. They got rid of it. It’s gone. They won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole; they figured it would be retail suicide if they did.
Q. What have retailers done in response to the public outcry over the deadly poisonous chicken jerky?
A. Not a thing. Absolutely nothing.
Q. Was there a recall of pink slime that prompted retailers to stop selling it?
A. Nope. Not even an FDA or a USDA warning or caution about pink slime, well at least not publicly anyway. Amazing, huh?
Q. But that didn’t stop retailers from responding to consumer outrage and disgust over pink slime?
A. No, it sure didn’t. Retailers aren’t stupid, they do what’s good for business and pink slime is definitely a bad investment and a public relations nightmare.
Q. Is there a recall on chicken jerky?
A. Nope. Just a bunch of repeated warnings from the FDA. And there won’t be one until the FDA makes it a priority and speeds up their progress to find the toxin.
Q. If pink slime caused the illness and death of over 600 children do you think the FDA would take four years trying to discover why pink slime had been killing children?
A. You’re kidding, right?
Q. Then what is the difference between pink slime and chicken jerky?
A. Chicken jerky kills dogs, not kids.
Even food experts have some distaste for the product. “Pink slime is safe, nutritious and cheap, but disgusting to think about,” nutrition expert Marion Nestle of New York University said in an e-mail. “I think of it as pet foods for kids.” Lovely.
* Completely fictitious interview.
Take three simple steps!
1. SIGN the petition to recall chicken jerky treats on change.org
2. JOIN the Facebook group Tainted Dog Treats from China – Just the Facts
3. BOYCOTT all brands of chicken jerky treats that are being linked to pet illness and deaths (including, but not limited to):
Canyon Creek Ranch
Booda Bones – Aspen Pet
American Kennel Club
Ever Pet (Dollar General)
Home Pet 360
Walgreen’s new brand – Simple
I highly recommend reading a wonderful article written by John J. Guzewich who reminds us that there are no quick fixes for outbreak surveillance and response on Food Safety News.
What is speciesism, anyway? It’s really interesting, trust me! Dr. Richard Ryder on Speciesism
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