U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has reportedly introduced
legislation that would require manufacturers to label products containing
lean finely textured beef (LFTB) trimmings. Dubbed the “Requiring Easy and
Accurate Labeling” or REAL Beef Act, the proposal would mandate such labels
“at the final point of sale” to inform consumers that they are purchasing what
Pingree described in a March 30, 2012, press release as “pink slime.” Citing an
online petition calling for an end to LFTB in school lunches, Pingree argued
that consumers “have made it pretty clear they don’t want this stuff in their
food. If a product contains connective tissue and beef scraps and has been
treated with ammonia, you ought to be able to know that when you pick it up
in the grocery store.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has apparently agreed
to grant manufacturers’ requests to voluntarily label LFTB trimmings in their
products. According to media sources, USDA food safety spokesperson Dirk
Fillpot confirmed that the agency will approve such requests in an effort to
help firms reach an acceptable outcome with customers. “If the product had
been labeled from the start, I doubt we’d see anything like the consumer
backlash that the media has stirred up in the past few weeks,” surmised one
author whose blog, “The Lunch Tray,” allegedly persuaded officials to allow
schools to drop LFTB from menus. See MSN.com, April 5, 2012.

In a related development, AFA Foods, Inc., a company that produces “case-ready ground beef and individually quick frozen hamburger patties,” has filed for bankruptcy. Its customers include major food retailers and fast-food chains. In the process of making its products, the company apparently uses the beef trimmings called into question by the media. According to the declaration of the company’s interim CEO, the controversy “has dramatically reduced the demand for all ground beef products,” further exacerbating its financial problems.

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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