It’s back and it’s here to stay for at least this upcoming school year. Pink slime, or as the industry calls it, lean finely textured beef (LFTB), has returned to school lunches in four more states. (Don’t remember hearing about pink slime? Read up fast right here.)
Pink slime is produced from the fatty scrapes of cattle carcasses that are heated and centrifuged to reclaim bits of muscle. These pieces are then bathed in ammonium hydroxide to kill off bacteria like E.coli and Salimonella. Doesn’t sound too appetizing or nutritious, right?
Before pink slime became a prime-time issue last year, about seven million pounds of the product were sold every year to schools across the U.S. But thanks to a series of ABC World Reports and vocal criticism by celebrity chef and health food advocate, Jamie Oliver pink slime was quickly removed from many U.S. schools.
According to Medical Daily, all but three states (Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota) dropped out of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) option to receive pink slime laced ground beef last year and overall usage of LFTB has been cut by 95 percent in recent years.
Many thought the end was near for pink slime and food advocates, parents, school administrators and children cheered.
But now, schools around the U.S. must face their tight budgets and have had to change their minds about pink slime in order to bring down the overall price of the food they serve. LFTB apparently lowers the cost by about three percent, reports Politico. This seems marginal to many, especially when nutrition and potential long-term health effects are put into the equation. Still, the USDA’s National Food Lunch Program feeds over 31 million school children every day and often any cut in costs is a welcomed relief to school districts.
As of September 3, seven total states have put in orders to the USDA for total of about 2,000,000 pounds of beef that may contain pink slime.
The USDA has come out again to announce that the product is safe, even though it was once thought unfit for human consumption because of its high fat content, reports Medical Daily. Al Almanza, an administrator of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, asserts that LFTB is indeed safe.
“Isn’t that what we want – a safe product to feed our families?” Almanza said.
Beef Products Inc., the largest manufacturer of the product, has of course agreed with the USDA’s announcement.
“USDA has repeatedly affirmed that lean finely textured beef is safe, wholesome, and nutritious 100% lean beef,” said Craig Letch, director of food safety and quality assurance for Beef Products Inc. “With the successful use of LFTB by [USDA’s National School Lunch Program] over the last 15 years, we are confident that these states and school districts will enjoy both quality and cost improvements. This will ultimately enable them to provide more nutritious lean beef to their children.”
These safety claims are based in part on the FDA’s 1974 classification of ammonium hydroxide, the solution that pink slime is bathed in, as a “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) substance. Yet, can we really trust this classification today after this study was recently revealed?
Experts don’t believe pink slime will regain a strong hold in the U.S. market, which is some positive news. But the question remains, should we even have such a product, whose very methods of production are so questionable, available at all?
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Image source: BeefProductsInc / Flickr