School Lunches Contain “Pink Slime”: Will You Let Your Child Eat Them?

Posted on April 13th, 2012 by Elaine Rosales  |  2 Comments »

meat with pink slimeThe “Mystery Meat” served in school cafeterias all over the world has always been the subject of jokes. But with recent developments, this should no longer be a laughing matter. The USDA, aiming to reduce its budget for the school lunch program, has ordered seven million pounds of Lean Beef Trimmings or “pink slime” from Beef Products Incorporated (BPI).

Lean Beef Trimmings is a concoction of beef scraps and connective tissues of cows that has been treated with ammonium hydroxide. For years now, the US government has been buying this pink slime, which is also used as filler in various processed meat products today.

“Even putting the ‘yuck factor’ aside, there are some very valid reasons to question why anyone, let alone children, should eat this product,” says Dr. Joseph Mercola.

The Hazards of Pink Slime

A report from ABC News details how pink slime is created:

“The ‘pink slime’ is made by gathering waste trimmings, simmering them at low heat so the fat separates easily from the muscle, and spinning the trimmings using a centrifuge to complete the separation. Next, the mixture is sent through pipes where it is sprayed with ammonia gas to kill bacteria. The process is completed by packaging the meat into bricks. Then, it is frozen and shipped to grocery stores and meat packers, where it is added to most ground beef.” (link)

According to Microbiologists Carl Custer and Gerald Zernstein (who came up with the term “pink slime”), Lean Beef Trimmings is a dangerous product because it is obtained from cow parts that are potentially contaminated with E. coli and other harmful bacteria. This is the reason why it needs to be treated with ammonia – all the pathogens need to be killed.

Unfortunately, Lean Beef Trimmings is exempt from testing for contamination because the USDA believes that the ammonia treatment is very “effective.” This is another reason why pink slime is potentially dangerous.

The “meat” used for Beef Trimmings is also not nutritionally adequate, especially for children. In a report in The Daily, Custer says:

“’We originally called it soylent pink. We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.” (link)

The ammonia used for treatment also poses problems because it is a toxin that can transform into ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in cleaning products and fertilizer. Because it is not an ingredient but a processing agent, ammonia is not indicated in the label of a particular BPI meat product.

Pink slime has been previously used by fast food companies, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell. But after it was revealed to the public that these food chains use this dubious food item, they decided to stopped adding it to their burgers and other meat products.

“It is a sad state of affairs that ammonia-treated beef scraps and connective tissues have been dropped by fast-food makers but not by the U.S. government who is supposed to make sure that your child’s school lunches are nutritious… or for the producers of the majority of ground beef sold in U.S. supermarkets,” says Dr. Mercola.

Beware: Your Supermarket Ground Beef May Also Contain Pink Slime

According to Zernstein, who is also a former USDA scientist, at least 70 percent of the ground beef in supermarkets also contain pink slime. It is used as a cheap filler for hamburger patties and inexpensive ground beef.

“Again, you cannot tell if the ground beef you buy contains the substance because it is not listed on the label. This is thanks to USDA officials, including one in particular who allowed the product to be labeled as ‘meat’ — and later went on to earn millions while serving on BPI’s board of directors!” says Dr. Mercola.

Consume Only Fresh, Pasture-Raised Organic Meat

The best way to avoid pink slime is to make sure you purchase meat and poultry from a trustworthy local farmer who follows high-quality farming practices.

“I realize that not everyone has access to small farmers, but food from local sources is increasing in popularity and is becoming much easier to come by. There are a number of grass-fed beef ranchers in the United States that offer safe, high-quality meats,” says Dr. Mercola.

You should also support online petitions that urge the USDA to stop purchasing Lean Beef Trimmings for school lunches. Dr. Mercola also urges you to join Chef Ann Cooper’s National School Food Challenge, and pledge to provide only fresh and locally-grown foods for your children at home and school (link).

“On an individual level, do your children a favor and send them to school with a healthy, home-packed meal,” he advises.


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Responses to “School Lunches Contain “Pink Slime”: Will You Let Your Child Eat Them?”

  1. Tomc says on :

    What we have all been exposed to with this “pink slime” coverage is a classic example of media sensationalism aimed at ratings and not based on facts. Now some clear facts here. The only differences between the trimmings used to make ground beef, as we the consumer recognizes it, and the trimmings used to make LFTB is the lean beef to fat ratio. LFTB starts by using higher fat trimmings. To achieve the higher lean ground beef that we all desire economically, the lean is separated from the fat and the lean is added back into the ground beef. The process of separating lean from fat is accomplished with centrifugal force similar to separating cream from milk. LFTB is nutritionally equal to ground beef or even improved due to higher lean content. On to the subject of ammonia hydroxide. The association of ammonia used as a cleaning or sanitizing agent is very misleading. After the lean beef is separated from the high fat trimmings. Food grade ammonia gas, which is naturally occurring in many foods including beef, is used to slightly elevate the ph of the product. Elevating the ph of the beef creates an environment that is unfriendly to bacteria. So the intent here is truly food safety. Next, I have seen a lot of back and forth about labeling. This is a tough one. There are a couple questions that have been posted many times. Do you label it ground beef with lean beef added? Or, do you put on the label ammonia used to elevate the level of already existing ammonia? Contrary to what we have been led to believe, this debate has been going on throughout for quite some time. What we should really be asking ourselves is, who’s going to suffer? Well, simple economics will tell us, as consumers, we will all pay more for beef at the meat counters due to the lose of quality lean beef in the market place. I would encourage that we all do some research for ourselves and not buy into the hype. A well informed consumer now has the tools to, and will, make good choices.

  2. Cathya says on :

    I’ve been in this country for over 20 years and for over 20 years the price of ground beef hasn’t risen as much as the price of anything else on the market. I understand the concern for customers in keeping price low but the question is at what cost are we keeping it low? I bet you, who give this answer on behalf of the Beef corporations do not eat from this low price beef. I’m sure you ground your own beef or have wholefood do it for you. I see the hypocrisy.

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