Leaving a Legacy

Sometimes attacks on the food industry are physical; sometimes they stem from alleged bad actions; sometimes they spring from the foolish or fanatical, looking to gin up controversy.

By KRYSTAL GABERT, Editor, Food Manufacturing

Krystal GabertThe food industry is under fire -- sometimes literally.

On January 8, 14 tractors and several trailers used for hauling animals burned inside a feed lot at Harris Ranch, a massive beef slaughterhouse in Coalinga, CA. California’s largest beef processor is believed to be the victim of an arson attack, after an animal rights website posted an anonymous note claiming credit for the fire.

Columbia Packing Co., a Dallas-area meatpacking plant, is now under investigation after a citizen complaint about the water quality of a nearby river led investigators to an alleged underground pipe pumping pigs’ blood directly into the river. A criminal investigation is now underway.

An Oklahoma state senator has introduced a bill to ban the use of human fetuses in food production. Freshman Sen. Ralph Shortey claims his concerns are rooted in the proliferation of stem cell research and the potential for fetal stem cells to be used in food research and development (R&D). The Food and Drug Administration told the Associated Press that it “is not aware of this particular concern.”

Sometimes the attacks against the food industry are physical, as in the case of Harris Ranch; sometimes they stem from the alleged bad actions of companies like Columbia Packing, tainting the entire industry; sometimes they spring from the imaginations of the foolish or fanatical, looking for a cause to gin up controversy.

But often overlooked in the midst of these attacks are the food companies and business owners investing in ways to make food safer and Americans healthier.

In 1988, the Bob’s Red Mill headquarters in Clackamas County, OR, was itself affected by arson. The historic mill was completely destroyed in a criminal fire, and the company’s then-owner, Bob Moore, was faced with a decision: rebuild the business from scratch or move on. Moore chose to rebuild, and Bob’s Red Mill now employs several hundred people in the Milwaukie, OR area and is the largest U.S. producer of whole-grain flours. 
On his 81st birthday in early 2010, Moore made headlines when he transferred ownership of the business he had spent more than 30 years building to an employee stock ownership plan, effectively giving the business to his employees.

In the years since, Moore and his wife, Charlee, have pledged tens of millions of dollars to help fight the national health crisis in the U.S. According to the company, in 2011 alone the Moores have pledged:

  1. $25 million to the Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) to start the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness, aimed at halting childhood obesity and chronic nutrition-related disease.
  2. $5 million to establish the Moore Family Center for Whole-Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health at Oregon State University, an academic center that’s building on the college’s research on nutrition, childhood obesity and related topics, and helping promote healthy eating throughout Oregon and beyond.
  3. $1.35 million to the National College of Natural Medicine to fund the ECO (Ending Childhood Obesity) Project, an ongoing series of free family-oriented nutritional health education and cooking workshops that provide families with the tools and know-how they need to make healthier food choices.

The Moores have provided a generous example with their socially responsible giving, but the pair isn’t alone; food industry giants are often working behind the scenes to improve the food supply and consumer health.

In this issue of Food Manufacturing’s cover story, you’ll read about the Global Food Protection Institute (GFPI), which has been working to improve food safety and protection worldwide. The facility wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg foundation, which provided the startup capital needed to begin research. Though the foundation is a separate entity from Kellogg, the majority of its annual funding comes from the cereal giant.

These financial contributions will not only impact consumers, but if the research funded by W.K. Kellogg and the Moores proves successful, these industry giants will also be improving health and safety for generations to come. Food manufacturers across the country should strive to leave the industry with such a legacy.

What’s your take? Please let me know by emailing krystal.gabert@advantagemedia.com or feel free to leave a comment below!