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Entries in Pink Slime (6)

Wednesday
Jun062012

'Pink Slime': America's Schools Say 'No'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Given the choice, most school districts in America are saying "no" to lean finely textured beef, more commonly known as "pink slime" after ABC News exposed its widespread use.

The United States Department of Agriculture said that only three states participating in the National School Lunch Program (Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota) have chosen to order ground beef that may contain LFTB.

The beef filler was at the center of a social media firestorm earlier this year prompting public outcry for better labeling practices and petitions to remove the product completely from schools. The USDA, which runs the school lunch program, reacted by allowing school districts to make their own choices about whether to order pre-formed beef patties that may contain LFTB or bulk beef without the controversial filler.

LFTB is a filler made of fatty bits of beef that are then heated and treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. The USDA maintains that the product is safe to eat and reduces the overall fat content of beef products.

School districts filed their orders for the 2012-2013 school year and only the three states where the principal maker of LFTB, Beef Products Inc., had factories chose the so-called pink slime product.

"Given some of the alarmist reporting and blogging that consumers have seen and read about lean finely textured beef, it's not surprising, though still distressing, to see school districts make the choices they have," said Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs at the American Meat Institute, in a statement to ABC News.

Products containing LFTB are also more affordable to school districts, estimated to cost 3 percent less than beef not containing the filler, which "translates into millions of dollars nationwide," said Riley.

"These decisions unnecessarily place further pressure on school budgets that are already struggling to fund teacher salaries and the like," he added.

As of May 18, states had requested more than 20 million pounds of the bulk beef not containing LFTB. Orders for beef that may contain the filler totaled about 1 million pounds. The USDA purchases about 60 percent of the ground beef used by U.S. school districts.

Fast food chains were the first to reject LFTB in its burgers. McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell all dropped it after initial media reports. Wendy's eventually took out ads in major newspapers saying it never used "pink slime." Later, grocery store chains, including Whole Foods, Publix and Costco would tell ABC News they have never sold products containing LFTB. Grocery giant Safeway told ABC News in March they will no longer be carrying beef products containing LFTB. Others followed, and BPI has shut all but one of its factories.

Under pressure from the public for better labeling practices, the USDA also announced in April that they will approve requests from ground beef producers to voluntarily label their products containing LFTB. Labels could read: "Contains Lean Finely Textured Beef" or "Contains Lean Beef Derived from Beef Trimmings."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr032012

Are LFTB, or ‘Pink Slime,' Safety Claims Meaningful to Consumers?

Rob Melnychuk/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The makers of Lean Finely Textured Beef, called “pink slime” by critics, insist their product is not just a cheaper filler added to fresh ground beef, and say it makes beef safer.

And, because LFTB is treated to kill pathogens, and since 2009, every box of LFTB has been inspected and held until it is cleared before shipping, manufacturer Beef Products Inc. claims that use of its product has never led to any deaths or sickness.

BPI owner Eldon Roth told supporters Saturday, “If your grocer doesn’t have our product in their ground beef, they don’t have the safest ground beef they could have.”

But four food safety experts interviewed by ABC News disagree, and they say it’s impossible to back up BPI’s claim for several reasons.

First, LFTB is not a stand-alone product. You cannot buy it at the grocery store.  As BPI said at its news conference, its “a different texture, and that is a finely, a fine texture.”

It is not the same as ground beef; the company concedes consumers would not recognize it as hamburger. In fact, it has the consistency of a “meat jello,” according to a former USDA microbiologist who studied the material.  So, even if the ammonia gas spritz it gets at the BPI plant is effective in destroying e-coli and other pathogens, the consumer never eats that product on its own.

Instead, LFTB is added to fresh ground beef, at a 15 percent ratio. Does that make the beef it’s added to safer?

At its news conference, BPI conceded the ammonia treatment of its product has no effect on the ground beef to which it is added.

When asked if LFTB kills pathogens in the beef it’s added to, BPI’s director of quality assurance Craig Letch said, “We cannot say that.”

Bill Marler, a noted food safety attorney who has sued the meat industry over e-coli and has toured the BPI plant and has praised BPI’s efforts at food safety in the past, told ABC News Tuesday that it is incorrect for BPI to say its product makes the beef supply safer.  Because, if it is added to contaminated ground beef, it will have no effect on the e-coli or other pathogens; the ground beef it's added to will still be contaminated after the so-called “pink slime” is mixed in.

Carl Custer, the former USDA microbiologist who opposed the inclusion of LFTB in ground beef, agrees the 15 percent change would be “hardly significant.”

Could 100-percent fresh beef actually be more risky because processors would be replacing the 15-percent ammoniated LFTB with untreated meat?

Michelle Simon, a public health lawyer, author of Appetite For Profit and a frequent critic of the meat industry, said, “This logic makes no sense.”  She warns of the potential risk, “Remember, the entire purpose of this stuff is to extend supply, right?”

“So it could even be argued that, far from making the beef supply safer, LFTB just helps spread the entire (unsafe) meat supply even further,” Simon. "When you consider that it makes beef cheaper, which of course results in more people eating ground beef, you are exposing more people to our contaminated meat supply.”

And Bill Marler adds, “There is no real recent evidence LBTF is any safer than regular ground beef, just BPI claims.”

And since the meat industry is so in tune to keeping e-coli out of the ground beef supply, he says, “It won’t let the wheels come off on safety without pink slime on the market, it will just test more.”

As for BPI’s claim that no one has ever been harmed by a LFTB-made hamburger, that may or may not be true. It’s impossible to prove or disprove, say food experts, because the USDA does not trace food poisoning outbreaks back to the processor.

Michelle Simon says, “Of course people have gotten sick eating beef with this stuff in it. We just cannot prove where the bugs came from.”

And according to a 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning article in The New York Times, a hamburger patty containing LFTB was linked to the paralysis suffered by dancer Stephanie Smith.

Records obtained by the Times showed “ten percent of Ms. Smith’s burger came from Beef Products.”  And the article said “federal school lunch officials found e-coli in Beef Products material in 2006 and 2008, and again in August” 2009, leading the company to begin its inspect-and-hold program.

For these reasons, both Marler and Simon say BPI’s broad claim that its product makes ground beef safer is misleading.

Now, the USDA has endorsed -- but not ordered -- the labeling of ground beef containing LFTB.  The USDA has announced that beginning Tuesday its inspectors will certify that ground beef voluntarily labeled as either “contains Lean Finely Textured Beef” or labeled “LFTB free” will be inspected to ensure it is true to its new label.

BPI released a statement endorsing the plan, saying it is the first step to restoring the reputation of its product.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar142012

‘Pink Slime’ Will Be a Choice for Schools

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News has the learned that on Thursday the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that starting this fall, schools will be able to choose whether or not they buy hamburger that contains lean, finely textured beef known as “pink slime.”

The announcement comes one week after ABC News reported on the beef filler commonly known as “pink slime,” which is found in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets.

“It kind of looks like Play-Doh,” said Kit Foshee, who, until 2001, was a corporate quality assurance manager at Beef Products Inc., the company that makes “pink slime.” “It’s pink and frozen, it’s not what the typical person would consider meat.”

Foshee said that he was fired by BPI after complaining about the process used to make the filler, and the company’s claims about it. Since then, he has spoken out against the product.

J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, defended the practice as a way to safely use what otherwise would be wasted.

“BLBT (Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings) is a sustainable product because it recovers lean meat that would otherwise be wasted,” he said in a statement.

However, the substance, critics said, is more like gelatin than meat, and before BPI found a way to use it by disinfecting the trimmings with ammonia, it was sold only to dog food or cooking oil suppliers.

But Boyle said, “The beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible,” and Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for AMI, said there was no reason to label beef that contains “pink slime.”

“What are you asking me to put on the label, its beef, it’s on the label, it’s a beef product, it’s says beef so we are declaring…it’s beef,” she said.

The low-grade trimmings come from the parts of the cow most susceptible to contamination, often close to the hide, which is highly exposed to fecal matter. But because the treatment of the trimmings -- simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs -- the United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.

ABC News traveled across the country to the meat section of grocery stores to see if it’s in the ground beef they sell. At most stores it was impossible to tell for sure whether the beef contained the filler. At one store there was no way to tell from the labels, and the butchers did not know the answer.

There is only one way to know for certain that “pink slime” is not in your beef: If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.

Otherwise, you can’t know from the packaging because “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar092012

Where You Can Get ‘Pink-Slime’-Free Beef

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After an ABC News investigation detailing the use of a cheap meat filler, finely textured lean beef, commonly called pink slime, which is in 70 percent of the ground beef sold at supermarkets, J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, defended the practice as a way to safely use what otherwise would be wasted.

“BLBT (Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings) is a sustainable product because it recovers lean meat that would otherwise be wasted,” he said in a statement.

However, the substance, critics said, is more like gelatin than meat, and before Beef Products Inc. found a way to use it by disinfecting the trimmings with ammonia it was sold only to dog food or cooking oil suppliers.

But Boyle says “the beef trimmings that are used to make BLBT are absolutely edible” and Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for AMI, said there was no reason to label beef that contains “pink slime.”

“What are you asking me to put on the label, its beef, it’s on the label, it’s a beef product, it’s says beef so we are declaring … it’s beef,” she said.

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But Kit Foshee, who, until 2001, was a corporate quality assurance manager at BPI, the company that makes pink slime, contends the trimmings bear little resemblance to beef.

“It kind of looks like Playdough,” he said. “It’s pink and frozen. It’s not what the typical person would consider meat.”

He and two former USDA inspectors told ABC News the filler commonly referred to as pink slime comes from a low grade of beef trimmings unlike what they call real ground beef. Foshee said that he was fired by BPI after complaining about the process used to make the filler, and the company’s claims about it. Since then, he has spoken out against the product.

The low-grade trimmings come from the parts of the cow most susceptible to contaminaton, often close to the hide, which is highly exposed to fecal matter. But because of BPI’s treatment of the trimmings -- simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs -- the United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.

The company calls the final product “Finely Textured Lean Beef.” Foshee said it was not as nutritious as ground beef because the protein comes mostly from connective tissue, not muscle meat.

But BPI, its inventor and primary manufacturer, told ABC News in a letter from a lawyer Friday that pink slime was USDA approved beef and was nutritious.

“All beef is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins,” H. Russell Cross, head of the department of animal science at Texas A&M University, said in a statement to ABC News. "Finely textured lean beef helps us meet consumer demand for safe, affordable and nutritious food.”

ABC News was flooded with questions from concerned viewers following its investigation into pink slime.

Many, like Dale Rittenhouse, wanted to know where beef with pink slime was sold.

So ABC News traveled across the country to the meat section of grocery stores to see if it’s in the ground beef they sell. At most stores it was impossible to tell for sure whether the beef contained pink slime. At one store there was no way to know from the labels and the butchers did not know the answer.

ABC News emailed the top 10 grocery chains in America and seven responded:

1. Safeway
“We rely on the federal government to help guide us on food safety issues. USDA has been clear in its judgment that Lean Finely Textured Ground Beef is a safe source of nutrition. However, we are reviewing the matter at this time.”

2. Ahold (Stop & Shop/Giant)
“Stores operated by the divisions of Ahold USA do carry ground beef made with Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), also called Finely Textured Beef (FTB). Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT) is beef and is absolutely safe for consumption. To make the product, beef companies use beef trimmings, which are the small cuts of beef that remain when larger cuts are trimmed down. These trimmings are USDA-inspected, wholesome cuts of beef. This process has been an industry standard for almost 20 years. Alternatives to the conventional ground beef supply, in the form of Certified Angus Beef and Nature’s Promise ground beef products, are available to customers in stores across all of the divisions of Ahold USA. These products do not include the use of BLBT. Customers are being encouraged to ask any meat associate should they have any questions or would like to be directed to meat that does not include Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings. Our labeling is in compliance with USDA regulations. BLBT is USDA tested and approved ground beef and therefore does not require labeling.”

3. Costco
Does not use pink slime.
“Anything that 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,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. “I just don’t know how to explain that. I’m not that smart.”

4. Publix
“We have never allowed the use of LFTB (pink slime) in our meat. It’s 100 percent ground beef with no LFTB.”

5. H-E-B
“All our ground beef sold at H-E-B is 100% pure with no additives.”

6. Whole Foods
Does not use pink slime.

7. Kroger
“We do not use finely textured beef in our fresh ground beef. … We are routinely presented the finely textured beef as an option, but have always refused.”

An ABC News viewer, Miles Herbert, wanted to know, “Is there any evidence that organic meat contains this pink slim?”

It turns out there isn’t. If your meat is stamped USDA Organic, it’s pure meat with no filler.

Otherwise, you can’t know from the packaging because pink slime does not have to appear on the label. And the USDA is giving no indication it will force meat packers to lift the veil of secrecy any time soon.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar072012

Seventy Percent of Ground Beef at Supermarkets Contains ‘Pink Slime’

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Gerald Zirnstein grinds his own hamburger these days. Why? Because this former United States Department of Agriculture scientist and, now, whistleblower, knows that 70 percent of the ground beef we buy at the supermarket contains something he calls “pink slime.”

“Pink slime” is beef trimmings. Once only used in dog food and cooking oil, the trimmings are now sprayed with ammonia so they are safe to eat and added to most ground beef as a cheaper filler.

It was Zirnstein who, in a USDA memo, first coined the term “pink slime” and is now coming forward to say he won’t buy it.

“It’s economic fraud,” he told ABC News. “It’s not fresh ground beef. …It’s a cheap substitute being added in.”

Zirnstein and his fellow USDA scientist, Carl Custer, both warned against using what the industry calls “lean finely textured beef,” widely known now as “pink slime,” but their government bosses overruled them.

According to Custer, the product is not really beef, but “a salvage product …fat that had been heated at a low temperature and the excess fat spun out.”

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.

The “pink slime” does not have to appear on the label because, over objections of its own scientists, USDA officials with links to the beef industry labeled it meat.

“The under secretary said, ‘it’s pink, therefore it’s meat,’” Custer told ABC News.

ABC News has learned the woman who made the decision to OK the mix is a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith. It was a call that led to hundreds of millions of dollars for Beef Products Inc., the makers of pink slime.

When Smith stepped down from the USDA in 1993, BPI’s principal major supplier appointed her to its board of directors, where she made at least $1.2 million over 17 years.

Smith did not return ABC News’ calls for comment and BPI said it had nothing to do with her appointment. The USDA said while her appointment was legal at the time, under current ethics rules Smith could not have immediately joined the board.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb012012

McDonald’s Announces End to ‘Pink Slime’ in Burgers

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- McDonald’s has announced that it will be discontinuing the use of the controversial meat product known as boneless lean beef trimmings in its burgers.

The product was recently brought to the attention of the public by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who derisively referred to it as “pink slime” on an episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

These trimmings, which consist of what’s left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken, are banned for human consumption in the UK, where they are instead used for dog and chicken food. They are legal for consumption in the United States, where they are treated with ammonium hydroxide in order to kill off bacteria such as E. coli and make it safe for human consumption.

Beef Products Incorporated, the company that had previously supplied McDonald’s with boneless lean beef trimmings, denied that Oliver’s show had anything to do with decision, saying it was made long before the show aired and was based on BPI’s inability to supply McDonald’s on a global basis. BPI also pointed to its recent placement on food safety advocate Bill Marler’s nice list and numerous food safety awards as evidence of its commitment to food safety.

McDonald’s also issued a statement confirming that this decision was long in the works.

Burger King and Taco Bell have also discontinued the use of boneless lean beef trimmings in their food.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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