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AMI Challenges `Food, Inc.' Claims During `Nightline' Interview

Friday, June 19, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

AMI Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Janet Riley challenged claims made in the new film “Food, Inc.” during an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” that aired last night.  To view the piece online, go to http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/.

“Food, Inc.” makes allegations about food production broadly and specifically about the meat industry’s animal welfare, food safety, nutrition and hiring practices.  According to Fast Food Nation author and the film’s co-producer Eric Schlosser, who appears extensively throughout the film, “It’s really just three or four companies controlling the meat.”  The film opened last week in three cities and opens more broadly 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,” Riley said.  “It was a caricature.”

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

 The film also features a scene in which a family goes through a drive-through restaurant, orders burgers, sodas and French fries and suggests that this is the only way that 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,” 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.”

The National Chicken Council’s (NCC) Richard Lobb also was interviewed by “Nightline.”  Lobb appeared in the film as well.

During the interview, Riley responded to claims that the industry would not agree to participate in the film, noting that Lobb did appear on behalf of the chicken industry and that AMI was never contacted. She also showed the producer correspondence between her and Schlosser dating back to 2005 in which Riley tried to arrange a meeting with Schlosser.  He wrote back and said he would be willing to meet, but has never committed to a time or place.  Riley sent another letter on June 9, 2009,  reiterating AMI’s request for a meeting.  These comments were not included in the “Nightline” piece.

AMI, NCC 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.  The Web site has been referenced extensively by the media and visited by more than 6,000 people since June 8.

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