It is made up of bits of scrap meat and muscle salvaged from slaughterhouse floors that are treated with ammonium hydroxide, a pink chemical, to kill pathogens. These parts are more susceptible to contamination by high levels of feces and germs (especially salmonella and E. coli) and were previously considered unfit for human consumption. They were reserved for dog and cat food. Now, the fat is centrifuged from the meat, and the remaining meat is treated with ammonia hydroxide, giving the meat its bubble gum pink color.With current processing, the FDA allows beef products to include up to 15% of “pink slime” as filler. It is found in 70% of hamburger meat in the US, including school lunches, supermarket ground beef and fast foods.
Shockingly, no labeling is required. Labeling requirements are skirted because the chemicals are considered a process, not an ingredient.
The federal government has been supplying meat laced with “Pink Slime” to schools nationwide that receive their meat from the free and reduced fee Federal lunch program. Seven million pounds of pink slime are slated for the national school lunch program, feeding 32 million children.
Now that parents have found out, the outcry has been so loud and relentless it has put pressure on the government to make at least minimal changes in the school lunch program.
Public outrage has also been pouring in to private, corporate and federal suppliers since “pink slime” has been exposed. Many of the institutions that have been relying on it now promise to stop using or selling it:
- McDonald’s recently announced they have stopped using ammonium hydroxide in the production of their hamburgers.
- Safeway and Supervalu Inc, have announced they have stopped buying “pink slime” beef filler.
- Supermarket chains Stop & Shop and Kroger Co. (the nation’s largest traditional grocer) announced on March 22, 2012 that they will no longer sell beef containing “Pink Slime.”
- School districts will be allowed to opt-out of receiving “Pink Slime” starting next year. Most school districts plan to opt out.
Some are saying the public is overreacting – that “Pink slime” may be unappetizing, but safe.
Now, really, how safe is ammonium hydroxide?
USDA spokesman Michael Jarvis responded with this statement when asked whether the USDA would consider completely banning “pink slime” from school meat shipments:
“All USDA ground beef purchases for the National School Lunch Program must meet the highest standards for food safety. This includes stringent pathogen testing and compliance with all applicable food safety regulations. USDA has strengthened ground beef food safety standards in recent years and only allows products into commerce – and especially into schools — that we have confidence are safe.”
Hmm…. how much confidence in the USDA does that leave you with?
My thoughts are: If they labeled it, people could at least have a choice.
But more importantly, what’s unfit for humans can’t be made “fit” with the use of chemicals – because now you have an additional element to deal with that shouldn’t be ingested in the first place that is far from “safe.”