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North American Meat Institute Statement on Clear Lab’s ‘Burger Report’

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Expert Review suggests new report showing foreign DNA contamination of burgers should be titled ‘Bad Science Meets Burgers’

Attribute to Betsy Booren, Ph.D., Vice President, Scientific Affairs, North American Meat Institute

Washington, DC--“A Northern California start-up lab that sought to alarm Americans last October with reports of DNA found in certain meat products is up to its same old tricks, this time targeting burgers just as grilling season approaches.

Last October’s story was irresistible to some media outlets, but apparently Americans were unfazed and the company’s well-timed Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its goal. We can only hope that the Americans will give this latest data release the same collective yawn.

As we all see when we watch CSI, DNA can be everywhere. It’s easy to leave a human, animal or plant trail behind. Experts say that a single cell or two can cause a sample to test positive. In fact, if we tested people, there’s a good chance that we might find a beef, pork or poultry cell on them simply from spending time in their kitchens.

A review of the company’s procedures suggest collection methods prone to mistakes and a range of errors throughout the analysis process. A look at the company's own promotional video featuring shots of overpacked freezers and technicians testing products using plastic forks and knives with paper towels would suggest cross contamination in the lab is a very good possibility. When a single cell can generate a finding, precise methods are crucial. It’s entirely possible that the human DNA found could be linked back to the company’s own staff – we just don’t know. Likewise, when the lab company suggests some products showed the presence of another species, like chicken in a beef product, this finding could also stem from a single cell and even result from the pulling samples from multiple packages in the same room, as the company appears to have done. We just don’t know and they haven’t said.

Because the meat products are regulated and inspected by USDA (vegetarian products are regulated by FDA), we are confident that they are safe and wholesome, and that by any reasonable standard, they are what they say they are on the label. USDA testing also indicates that today’s ground beef is safer than ever with significant reductions in pathogenic bacteria which are further confirmed by this report. It is notable that the majority of bacteria found are not of the foodborne variety and not significant health concerns. Consumers should remain confident in their burgers and take this report for what it is: bad science meets burgers as a marketing ploy for a fledgling company.”

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