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Beef Products Inc. (BPI), a company that has been heavily implicated in the so-called Pink Slime controversy, announced yesterday that “it is suspending operations at three of its four plants.”

According to the National Public Radio (NPR) story,”Though it is not the country's only producer of lean finely textured beef, BPI found itself alone in the spotlight, battling information from former employees turned-whistleblowers and internal documents asserting that its product was responsible for E. coli and other dangerous microbes detected in ground beef.”

The Associated Press writes that “Craig Letch, director of food quality and assurance for Beef Products Inc., declined to discuss financial details, but said business has taken a ‘substantial’ hit since social media exploded with worry over the ammonia-treated filler.” While the company is calling this

The problem, according to many critics, is that companies such as BPI have not been transparent about the process of making and using “lean finely textured beef” as a filler, which has opened them to charges that they have misled consumers. And supermarket chains all over the country have responded to the controversy by announcing that they will no longer sell meat containing pink slime...or never sold it to begin with.

For example, Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy announced yesterday that “customers disturbed about the rampant use of pink slime are invited to swap ground beef bought from other retailers at Fresh & Easy’s ‘Pink Slime Swap Meat’ this Wednesday, March 28th ... Customers can bring fresh or frozen ground beef from another retailer to any Fresh & Easy and exchange it for a package of fresh&easy (80/20) ground beef – no questions asked.”
KC's View:

Signs like the one pictured here - which was posted at Stew Leonard’s this week - are cropping up all over the country. No question that the PR battle has been lost.

More than a dozen MNB users sent me links to the BPI story yesterday, many of them with the suggestion that people like me are responsible for the closings of these plants. I feel bad about the closings, and know that all the publicity about pink slime led to them. But I do think there is a broader lesson here about the importance of transparency.

I wonder if there also is something else at play here - lingering suspicions on the part of the consuming public about the safety of food overall. And that’s something with which the industry will have to deal.