Nel's New Day

March 14, 2012

Pink Slime Stories Inundate Net

Nutrition is important for the brain and vital for children. So why is the government feeding school kids pink slime? This term describes a hamburger additive from first grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally used in dog food and then treating the substance with ammonia hydroxide to kill salmonella and E. coli. It’s not even good enough for McDonalds, Taco Bell, and Burger King.

The USDA permits beef products to contain up to 15 percent of “Lean Beef Trimmings” (think pink slime) since USDA undersecretary JoAnne Smith, a George H.W. Bush appointee and former president of the National Cattleman’s Association, pushed through the ruling. Nobody can know what meat contains the product because there are no labeling requirements for its inclusion.

In addition to pink slime having no nutritional value, it results in illness–three E. coli contaminations and four dozen salmonella contaminations between 2005 and 2009. Also ammonium hydroxide is not safe to ingest and can turn into ammonium nitrate, a common ingredient in homemade explosives. It’s also used in household cleaners and fertilizers.

The school lunch program saves three cents per pound of hamburger for using pink slime.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is purchasing 7 million pounds of the “slime” for school lunches. “We originally called it soylent pink,” said microbiologist Carl Custer, who worked at the Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years. “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].

This isn’t the first year that school kids eat pink slime. A USDA spokesperson said that 6.5 percent of last year’s purchases were LFTB (Lean Finely Textured Beef). Nice name for pink slime. He insisted that it’s a high-quality, safe product and claimed that it had showed no food-safety problems since the 2009 Times article. Nor, he added, does price play a role in the department’s decision to buy it. Oh yeah

Why would the Obama administration allow pink slime in school lunches? The question is especially appropriate because of new government guidelines for healthier options in school meals, more whole grains and produce as well as less sodium and fat.

School kids aren’t the only ones eating pink slime. Approximately 70 percent of ground beef at the grocery store contains this stuff. And don’t bother looking at the label. Remember? There are no labeling requirements for pink slime. The only solutions are to have the meat ground in front of you, buy organic ground meat—or just don’t buy it.

A rumor is circulating that the USDA will announce a change tomorrow so that schools can choose between 95 percent lean beef patties made with the product or less lean bulk ground beef without it. The new policy won’t go into effect until next fall because of current contracts. According to an anonymous source, USDA thinks that the ammonia treatment is safe but wanted to give schools choices. Meanwhile multiple sources are flooding the Internet with explanations of pink slime safety.

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