A.M.I., N.C.C. officials refute 'Food Inc.' claims

by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
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WASHINGTON – Claims made in the new film "Food, Inc." were challenged by Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute, during an interview with ABC’s "Nightline" that aired June 18.

"Food, Inc." makes allegations about food production broadly and specifically about the meat industry’s animal welfare, food safety, nutrition and hiring practices. The film’s co-producer, Eric Schlosser, who is also the author of Fast Food Nation and who appears extensively throughout the film, said, "It’s really just three or four companies controlling the meat."

Last week, the film opened in three cities and it will be released in additional cities this weekend.

"I’ve been in this industry for 18 years and for me, it was like going to see a film about modern investigative techniques and having Scooby Doo show up on the screen," Ms. Riley said. "It was a caricature."

Ms. Riley detailed the aggressive and unique oversight of humane handling practices in place in meat-packing plants in response to the film’s claims about animal welfare.

The film also features a scene in which a family goes through a drive-through restaurant, orders burgers, sodas and French fries and suggests this is the only way they can afford to eat due to economic and time constraints. The mother said she "felt guilty" feeding her family this way.

"I objected to the idea that somehow these people were being forced to buy certain foods and forced to eat in their cars," Ms. Riley said. "I actually went online because I didn’t believe it. I was able put together three different meals for $16-$18 and I guarantee you that there would be leftovers from what I cooked."

Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, who appeared in the film, also was interviewed by "Nightline."

Ms. Riley responded to claims the industry would not agree to participate in the film during the interview, noting that Mr. Lobb did appear on behalf of the chicken industry and that A.M.I. was never contacted. She also showed the producer correspondence between her and Mr. Schlosser dating back to 2005, in which Ms. Riley tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Schlosser. He wrote back and said he would be willing to meet, but never committed to a time or place. Ms. Riley sent another letter on June 9 iterating A.M.I.’s request for a meeting. These comments were not included in the "Nightline" piece.

As a result, A.M.I., N.C.C. and a coalition of trade associations have collaborated to produce http://www.safefoodinc.com/, a new Web site that responds to the film’s claims. Since June 8, the Web site has been referenced extensively by the media and visited by more than 6,000 people. (Read "New web site counters 'Food Inc.'s' misleading focus" in the June 12th edition of MEATPOULTRY.com.)

To view the Nightline piece online, go to http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/.

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