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In the wake of swirling controversy over the use of lean finely textured beef (LFTB) in ground beef products that has prompted many food retailers to discontinue carrying it, the American Meat Institute (AMI) and a major beef processor are blaming the "frenzy of misinformation" and consumer concern on a scare cooked up by ABC World News to generate ratings.

“Congratulations, ABC World News,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president of Washington-based AMI. “Your relentless coverage and uninformed criticism of a safe and wholesome beef product has now delivered a hook for yet another nightly news broadcast.”

Referring to the network’s coverage as “a three-week war waged on a beef product called lean finely textured beef,” Boyle noted that the as-of-now temporary closures of three plants operated by Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based Beef Products Inc. (BPI) have thrown “hundreds of people” out of work.

“Lean finely textured beef has been processed for two decades, blended into ground beef at very low levels to enhance the leanness of ground beef and safely consumed,” explained Boyle. “But the frenzy of misinformation that has swirled during the last several weeks gives new meaning to Winston Churchill’s great quote, ‘A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.’”

By contrast, Boyle observed, knowledgeable members of the meat science community “have been attacked as so-called ‘slimewashers’ because their characterization is different from the popular misconceptions.”

Boyle went on to affirm the safety and nutritional content of LFTB, which has been used for two decades and products in accordance with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules and under USDA inspection. In fact, Boyle noted that USDA even buys the product for its feeding programs.

Beyond the BPI workers who lost their jobs, “American families will also pay the price at the checkout counter as they see the price of ground beef begin to rise while we work to grow as many as 1.5 million more head of cattle to replace the beef that will no longer be consumed due to this manufactured scare,” warned Boyle, who directed those with questions to a website offering more information on LFTB.