The ammonia-treated bright pink meat dubbed pink slime, recently rejected by fast food titans McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King, is being shipped in by the boatload to school lunch trays across the nation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is purchasing 7 million pounds of the “slime” for school lunches, The Daily reports. “Lean Beef Trimmings,” is the official name of the product, made up of a ground-up combination of beef scraps, cow connective tissues and other beef trimmings that are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens like salmonella and E. coli. That mix is then blended into traditional meat products like ground beef and hamburger patties.
“We originally called it soylent pink,” microbiologist Carl Custer, who worked at the Food Safety Inspection Service for 35 years, told The Daily. “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.”
Custer and microbiologist Gerald Zernstein concluded in a study that “Lean Beef Trimmings,” are a “high risk product,”.
Zernstein says that “scientists in D.C. were pressured to approve this stuff with minimal safety approval” by the Bush administration. The USDA claims that its ground beef purchases “meet the highest standard for food safety.”
There are numerous health concerns about the ingestion of “pink slime”, particularly dangers associated with ammonium hydroxide, which can both be harmful to eat and has potential to turn into ammonium nitrate, a common component in homemade bombs. It’s also used in household cleaners and fertilizers.
In 2009, The New York Times reported that despite the added ammonia, tests of “Lean Beef Trimmings” of schools across the country revealed dozens of instances of E. coli and salmonella pathogens.
Between 2005 and 2009, E. coli was found three times and salmonella 48 times, including two contaminated batches of 27,000 pounds of meat.