Food Safety / Columns

Editor's Note: PS, I hate you. The truth doesn’t always set you free

May 3, 2012
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W hen I was awoken today by my alarm clock set to a local news radio station, I thought, “Today’s going to be a better day for the food industry.” One of the lead stories was hitting the mark on how most scientists agree lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is perfectly safe. The report went on to discuss how very low amounts of ammonia have been safely used in many food products for years. Great, I thought, “Each day, the real food science behind LFTB is emerging.”

When the reports questioning LFTB’s safety first gained traction a few months ago, I thought the entire affair would blow over when news networks found a juicier story to tell.

As the days and weeks of LFTB reporting dominated the news, I became disillusioned by my journalism colleagues in the general media for hyping the story and not presenting the scientific facts. Every time I read an article or heard a news report that referred to LFTB as PS, I became increasingly angry. I wanted to scream, “Call the product by the real name, not by some hyped-up false moniker.” (I refuse to put those two little words in this column, but you all know what I’m talking about.) I even started my own personal crusade to educate friends and family about LFTB by sending links to objective articles by food science leaders at major universities.

Let’s get back to this morning. By the time I reached the office a few hours later, another dubious consumer product complaint crusade was underway, this time about pet food. My hopes about it being a better day for the food industry were dashed. When I think about how much time, labor and money our industry spends on food safety, I’m astounded and grateful. Would any major processor knowingly risk it all in this age of transparency? I highly doubt it.

My advice to processors under fire has always been: Prove the food safety science behind your product, and the truth shall set you free from detractors. Today, I’d give the same advice, but I’d add a few caveats such as: maybe eventually, and sometimes too late. As the saying goes, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”   

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