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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Beef Products Inc., sues Iowa State University over the disclosure of Ammonia Beef documents

Shortly before the New York Times article, “Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned,” was published, we sent a request to the Iowa State University and Dr. James S. Dickson PhD, asking for all documents related to research on the ammonia beef products sold by Beef Products Inc., (BPI).  The University informed us that they had compiled 1650 pages of documents and that it would cost $2,175.44.  We sent them the check. 

Apparently, BPI does not what us or the public to have those documents so it sued Iowa State. As you may recall from the Times article:

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.

The treated beef landed in Washington in 2001, when federal officials were searching for ways to eliminate E. coli. Beef Products already had one study showing its treatment would do that; another company-sponsored study by an Iowa State University professor that was published in a professional journal seconded that finding.

Frankly, I thought the public should know what BPI, the USDA/FSIS and the beef industry were relying on to serve us the ammonia “fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil.” I would have assumed BPI, the USDA/FSIS and the beef industry would feel the same way?  Well, BPI did not.  See letter from Iowa State Counsel and Injunction from BPI Counsel.  This is going to be interesting.

  • Ellen Maddux

    As a farmer of beef cattle and restaurant owner I am appalled that the USDA allows these practices of Beef Products Inc. to add ammonia to our beef and to serve it to our kids. Are we not more intelligent than that? It is okay if an adult wants to comnsume fast food with ammonia fillers, however many children are not forwarned when eating in the schhol cafeteria. I’m sure if they were they would choose something else. If dthe government got involved a lobbiest would not be far behind. Buy directly from the farmer and go to your farmers market after all you are what you eat.

  • tony engels

    You’ve got to be kidding me, this is supposed to stuff of urban legend. Who gets to decide what %of ammonia is ok? the unlucky lab rats? I hope Carls Jr doesn’t use this stuff too, I trust them a bit more than McD’s and BK

  • Allen Mozek, MPH

    The New York State Association for Food Protection is considering advocating the RIGHT TO KNOW regarding this ammoniated beef addition in ground beef distributed to the NYS Public School System.
    The safety issue is apparently a weaker point (legally) of contention than the RIGHT TO KNOW. Can you join us as an advocate for RIGHT TO KNOW policy in New York State?
    The adulteration laws have been turned on their heads with this USDA process approval. It is commonly held that adulterated foods, such as trimmings heretofore rendered or held for pet food only, can not be diluted or processed into human food. The trimmings, adulterated with pathogens, were considered adulterated and unfit for human consumption before this process was approved. The trimmings are de-characterized which are also a form of adulteration. This issue will dovetail into the loss of ethics in food safety and food productuion we are currently exploring. We invite all persons of similar mindset to join in support of the NYS Association for Food Protection by emailing us – check our website and direct your correspondence to me – I will invite you in our efforts.
    Thanks,
    Allen Mozek, MPH
    allen.mozek@agriculture.ny.gov