PINK SLIME, THE SEQUEL: beef scraps and connective tissue, ammonia hydroxide and the national school lunch program

The media provided fairly extensive coverage of the fast food industry’s use of “pink slime.”  The obnoxious substance consists of fatty beef scraps and connective tissue that are treated with ammonia hydroxide to remove pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli.  The concoction is put in a centrifuge to isolate those parts that contain protein, which transforms the scraps into a gelatinous substance that bears a striking resemblance to a certain anti-diarrhea medication.

Once the process is complete, it is used as a filler for commercial ground beef used by fast food restaurants and sold by grocery stores.  Gerald Zirnstein, formerly employed as a scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture, claims that around 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets contains the pink slime.

Let the outrage commence.  The media reports, coupled with significant grassroots efforts, served only to fuel a public outcry against the use of fatty beef fillers treated with ammonia hydroxide. Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver led the charge, using his television show as a soapbox and declaring:

[b]asically, we’re taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process we can give it to humans.

McDonald’s decided to stop relying upon the substance.  Taco Bell and Burger King discontinued its use.  H-E-B, Whole Foods, Publix and Kroger won’t touch the filler.  Craig Wilson, the Vice President of Quality Assurance of Costco, explained that

[a]nything we sell at Costco, we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef… I just don’t know how to explain that.

For whatever its worth, Safeway has yet to commit to removing the ingredient and is instead “reviewing the matter at this time.”

Safeway may be late to the party, but its commitment to review the matter at least suggests that the company is well ahead of the federal government.

Earlier this week, the media reported that the USDA now plans to use approximately 7 million pounds of meat containing ammonia-treated scraps for the national school lunch program.  Around 6.5% of ground beef consumed by children in the school lunch program will therefore be treated with ammonia hydroxide.

Loosely translated, the federal government wants our children to consume a substance that has been flatly rejected by the fast food industry.  You really can’t make this stuff up.

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