Consumer Reports beef article full of fear, bias

National Cattlemen Beef Association,

Consumer Reports’ article “What’s Really in Your Meat?” is nothing more than sensationalist journalism. The article, which bases its findings on unconfirmed residue screening tests of meat, draws false and misleading conclusions meant to deceive consumers and reduce the consumption of meat.

The unconfirmed results utilized by the author were erroneously released by USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) in March of this year following receipt of a Freedom of Information Act request. After realizing the mistake, FSIS worked to correct the error and provide accurate data from confirmed tests. However, even after accurate information was provided by FSIS, Consumer Reports continued to utilize the inaccurate information on which the article is based.

In a response issued  by FSIS, the agency calls the story “sensational and fear-based infotainment aimed at confusing shoppers with pseudoscience and scare tactics.” The path chosen by Consumer Reports does nothing to protect or inform and will only serve to create doubts about safety in the minds of consumers.

Articles such as this only serve to create an inaccurate atmosphere of mistrust about the safety of the U.S. meat supply and cast doubt on the U.S. National Residue Program at FSIS. Knowingly printing inaccurate and misleading articles, which rely on information that is known to be false, misleads consumers about the competency of the current food safety programs in place at USDA. Those programs have long been the global gold standard for food safety and today they continue to provide overlapping safeguards to ensure consumers are receiving wholesome and safe products.

FSIS, in the statement issued today reiterated these points, saying:

“If violative drug residues are found in any meat or poultry product, FSIS does not allow that product to be sold for human food. In fact, all meat and poultry products that are being tested for drug residues are not allowed to leave the company’s control until FSIS labs determine that the product is safe and wholesome. If samples are violative, the company is not permitted to ship any of these meat and poultry products to the grocery store.”

The author of “What’s Really in Your Meat?” admits that the article’s findings are uncertain and any potential risks are unknown. The reality is that America’s beef producers take food safety seriously, as do the government agencies that regulate and monitor production in the United States. To suggest otherwise is false and irresponsible.

In the past, shoppers in the United States relied upon Consumer Reports for accurate information about the products they purchased. However, the bias on display in this article and others like it demonstrates that fair and accurate reporting is no longer a priority for the magazine. If Consumer Reports can’t do better than this when reporting on topics of critical importance, the American public would be better served if the magazine returned its focus to the testing of lightbulb lifespans and other matters of less gravity.

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