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AMI Objects to Post Story on E. coli Outbreak

Thursday, April 12, 2001

In a letter sent to the Washington Post editor yesterday, AMI President J. Patrick Boyle sharply criticized the Post’s story "An Outbreak Waiting to Happen" (April 9) and objected to the absence of any industry quotes in the story despite AMI’s participation in four hours of interviews with investigative reporter Joby Warrick.

“When I read the Post’s highly touted investigative piece…I recalled Yogi Berra's quip about ‘deja vu all over again.’ I thought I’d seen this story before. In fact I had. I’d seen it on ‘60 Minutes’ in the mid-1980s, on ‘Prime Time Live’ in the early '90s, and again on a variety of tabloid news shows in the ensuing years,” Boyle said in the letter. “I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, since the piece was done in conjunction with ‘Dateline’ which uses a formulaic style of reporting that simplistically defines ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ and identifies nothing in between.”

Boyle called the piece a disappointment, since the Post historically has set the standard for insightful investigative journalism.

“The tragic victims of E. coli O157:H7 infections deserved a story that might have prompted discussion and change -- not just fear,” he said

“U.S. meat is safe,” Boyle said. “In fact, its safety is comparable to other consumer products, from cars to hair dryers, which also need to be handled safely. Our fresh products carry safe handling labels on every package with clear instructions on proper storage, cooking and handling to ensure safety once the product is served.

Finally, he argued that it was inappropriate for Warrick to appear as an “expert” on a Dateline story which aired the same day and to participate in two “chats” where he dispensed information and opinion.

The full text of the letter is available at: http://www.meatinstitute.org/Template.cfm?Section=_i_E_coli__i_&NavMenuID=129&template=TaggedContentFile.cfm&NewsID=383

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