Over the last few weeks, a pro-LFTB commenter named Tiffany has left numerous wall posts on TLT’s Facebook page and when I finally wrote my belated response to her this morning, it seemed worth posting here since many pro-LFTB commenters on this blog have raised similar concerns. For those who wish to see the exchange referenced below between Tiffany and the other commenter, Tina, you can visit the page and look for Tiffany’s wall post which read:
? This started as a way to get LFTB out of school lunches. Then it turned into a full on media smear. Then after you denounced a company and it’s product, after you signed petitions to ban it, your asking for a label. Why is it you felt your opinions where the only ones that mattered?
Here is my response:
Hey Tina and Tiffany:
First of all, it’s been nice to read this exchange and see two people who disagree still manage to keep it together and recognize their common ground — and even be able to joke with each other. After all the ugliness over on my blog, I find your dialogue hopeful and inspiring.
Tiffany, I don’t know if you ever actually read my blog — sometimes you say things here about me or my views that make me think you don’t bother going to TLT? (Just FYI, this Facebook page is an informal place for my readers to hang out and where I share little asides, but it’s not the place where I present my views on important issues.) So it’s hard — and even a bit unfair to ask me — to recap in these little blue boxes full responses to your concerns given that I’ve already written about them at length on TLT. But let me just say a few things here.
I am deeply troubled by job losses and plant closings. I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone who reads TLT is a parent, and we all know the pressure and anxiety of having young children dependent on us for all their needs. To put any parent through the stress of job loss, especially in this economy, is a terrible thing.
What I find even more troubling is that the people who might lose their jobs over this controversy are likely very far removed from the decision makers who helped influence USDA’s determination that this product not be labeled on ground beef. Had consumers known about this filler from day one, and had BPI been making all the positive claims about it that we’re now hearing from the company, I suspect we would never have seen anything like the consumer outcry of the last few weeks, the same outcry that led stores to cancel orders, etc. People felt — rightly, to my mind — deceived about what they were buying when they picked up a package of ground beef in the supermarket and the backlash has been intense.
It is true that my petition focused only on school food. You’re new here and, as Tina said, I write only about kids and food on TLT, five days a week. I’m also actively involved in school food in Houston ISD. So I care very much about what we feed school kids and yes — while I know you and I will never, ever agree on this subject — I was quite displeased to learn on March 5th that LFTB is still in the meat procured by USDA for the National School Lunch Program. (I had thought Agriculture Secretary Vilsack had made a decision in 2010 to no longer use beef with LFTB in school food; I was obviously mistaken.)
I started a petition on March 6th which contained only factual, sourced information. I did not make any big deal about “ammonia” – I mentioned the use of ammonium hydroxide exactly once in the petition and that’s it – no scary references to Windex, etc. And yes, while on the first day I accidentally included that incorrect photo of “pink goo,” I corrected my error on the petition and on TLT the very next day. (My best guess is that perhaps 2,000 people of the quarter of a million who ultimately signed the petition saw the original version with the goo photo.)
As media coverage of the issue spread and consumers expressed their dismay over learning that LFTB was in their reportedly 70% of ground beef sold in the U.S., up to 15% and without disclosure, a call for labeling began. While that was not the goal of my petition, I wholeheartedly support labeling and lent my voice to that effort. (And those two goals are not unrelated. Schoolchildren who participate in the NSLP are by and large economically dependent on the school meal, yet they and their parents had no voice over — or knowledge of — what was in the ground beef being served.) I am proud of the fact that I worked with Congresswoman Pingree’s office to help introduce the REAL Beef Act in Congress and I hope that it succeeds in getting passed. Even if it does not, however, we saw yesterday that USDA will allow processors to voluntarily label LFTB and many are taking advantage of this choice.
I have never once asked for this product to be banned from the marketplace. However, our free market economy cannot function without informed consumer choice. BPI clearly has a big megaphone — no less than five states sent governors or lieutenant governors to participate in its widely covered press conference last week — and it is well equipped to make its case that LFTB is a safe and wholesome product. Some consumers will agree and buy beef with LFTB, and others will not. That seems to me to be the right of every American consumer and, frankly, I wonder why many who believe LFTB is such a great product seem afraid to let consumers know it’s in their ground beef. (And before you tell me “beef is beef,” such that LFTB needs no label, I promise you that I am very well acquainted with that view point, and I just don’t agree. You can read why here, among other places.)
Finally, thank you for the many comments you’ve left on this page expressing your views. You recently used some harsh expletives to address a commenter on this page and while I don’t condone that, I also saw that you were provoked by her. I trust you won’t do that again, and you should know I’ve spoken to the person on the other side as well. And I’m sorry it’s taken me days to address you directly here – it has been challenging to keep up with the hundreds of comments coming in on this page and on the blog itself, as well as all the emails I receive.
As I said above, I know you and I will never see eye-to-eye on this issue, but I hope this clears up at least a few of the misconceptions you seem to have had about me and my petition. And, again, I do hope you will visit The Lunch Tray, if you haven’t already done so, to actually read my views presented in a fuller and more nuanced way.