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Pete Crow

As you might guess I read a lot and it’s getting hard to find real unbiased news reporting anymore. It absolutely shocked me last week when I got news that Consumer Reports ran a story, “Are banned drugs in your meat.”

I always thought that Consumer Reports (CR) was one of those unbiased organizations that simply rated products and services to their value, in an objective way. Wrong. They have an agenda, which they clearly state is to get Americans to eat less meat.

Don’t you love it when some group tells you how to eat and live your life? Awareness is one thing, but this article wasn’t about awareness. It was about creating doubt and fear about the meat you produce. This should be taken personally.

They ran a story that berated the meat industry, claiming that modern meat production is filled with dangerous chemical residues. They, CR, through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), requested meat sampling data. CR interpreted that FSIS-inspected meat was gushing with unsavory chemical residues. The data came from FSIS so it’s got to be accurate, right?

We all make mistakes, and FSIS made one. FSIS realized that they sent CR some bad data and tried to correct it. After the story was published, acting Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety, Carmen Rottenburg, said, on March 3, 2017, “In our haste to be transparent and responsive, we mistakenly released in response to a FOIA request, unconfirmed, preliminary test results for samples taken from poultry. We corrected our mistake with the requestor. However, the unconfirmed sampling results continue to be passed around as accurate, truthful information—they are not.”

However, CR continues to claim that their food safety scientists and other experts say the results are meaningful and concerning. I would be concerned too if the drug residues they claim to have found were in my meat. Such as Ketamine, a hallucinogenic party drug, go figure.

This article is to be published in the October issue of CR, but an online edition was published last week. The data collection for this story has gone on for about two years and one would think that CR would want to be as accurate as possible in light of these allegations. Yet they continued to refer to the false data from FSIS, which FSIS tried in earnest to correct. CR even contacted former FSIS food safety personnel, who for the most part said the issue would require a second look, even though FSIS had already looked at it and considered it inaccurate.

Every meat industry group knew this story was coming and was given the opportunity to correct the author and explain the industry’s point of view over the bogus data. Industry groups, however, stand by FSIS. Conclusions based on preliminary results “would amount to fearmongering and needless alarm,” said Ashley Peterson, Ph.D., senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the National Chicken Council. Echoing statements came from other groups representing beef, pork, and turkey producers. This was the meat industry’s only reference into this story. Even though they received reams of data from the meat industry, CR simply chose the data that suited their purpose.

As damning and dramatic as this piece of fake news was, the folks at CR tell consumers what they can do about it and clearly say: “CR’s food safety experts don’t think that the concerns raised in this investigation mean you should give up or necessarily cut back on meat. The findings are too uncertain, and the potential risks are unknown.” Then they cite research that says Americans eat more meat than recommended and reducing meat consumption can be good for the environment. Also, that there wasn’t enough information to say that organic meat is less likely to have drug residue and that the “USDA Organic seal can’t guarantee the meat is drug-free.”

I hope this little episode helps you understand why we have a Beef Checkoff to combat these phony issues that arise from the idealist activist groups. When these false stories are published for millions to see, it’s clearly irresponsible journalism. And you would expect more from a Columbia School of Journalism graduate. But, perhaps not. — PETE CROW

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