Corrupting influence of corporate power

Last modified: 4/3/2012 12:00:00 AM
Microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein initially coined the term 'nasty pink slime' in a 2002 email to his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Zirnstein was describing exactly what highly contaminated fatty waste trimmings - undesirable parts of cow carcasses once relegated for consumption only as dog food or used in cooking oil - looked like after being processed by Beef Products Inc.

Beef Products Inc. liquefies fat that's run through a centrifuge, sprayed with amonia gas, mashed until it has a consistency similar to gelatin, then shaped into bricks prior to freezing them. Pink slime was added without the knowledge of the general public to nearly 70 percent of this country's ground beef.

Neither Zirnstein, who actually inspected a Beef Products Inc. plant which manufactures pink slime, nor Carl Custer, a scientist who also worked at the USDA, considers this junk to be beef.

Overruling the objections of people like Zirnstein and Custer, USDA Under Secretary Joann Smith, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush and formerly a beef industry advocate, made the decision putting pink slime into our food system. This benefited its inventor, Beef Products Inc. owner Eldin N. Roth, by hundreds of millions of dollars.

When Smith left government, she was appointed to the board of directors of Beef Products Inc., which paid her $1.2 million over 17 years.

The USDA relied upon a Beef Products Inc. report and another beef industry study to allegedly validate the safety of pink slime without ever bothering to seek confirmation of these findings through independent research.

The use of pink slime is the latest example of the corrupting influence of corporate power.




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